M is for Majestic: The Mountains and Burns of Scotland

Majestic: ‘having or showing impressive beauty or scale’.

Scotland. Nothing to do with the Queen, although I’m not denying she’s majestic in that ‘good evenin’, You Majesty’ way, and once Techy Husband and I did find ourself meandering around the back of the Balmoral estate by accident when we got lost.

DSCF2815Scotland has more majestic scenery than you can shake a stick at, and I’ve been lucky enough to see some of it.

My favourite trip was up through the Glen Shee pass  – through the Cairngorms up towards Braemar – at Easter one year, when the sun was shining and the mountains were still covered in snow. Amazing!




The other lovely area to visit on a snowy sunny day is The Lecht between Tomintoul and Cockbridge, on the Glenlivet Estate. It’s a beautiful walk and if you like a bit of history, you can walk along the valley to the old crushing  mill building that still stands there – all that remains of an old iron mine.




This picture of my lovely mum-in-law, above, was taken on a visit to The Lecht on a day when there was snow, rain, hail and hot bright sunshine all within an hour.


This picture on the left was taken in the hail phase!




It’s an easy walk alongside the burn from the Well of the Lecht car park – and even the view from the car park is amazing (this was the rain phase!). 




The walk along the burn itself is lovely and the views make it well worth the walk, but having an end point to your walk is great too – and inside the crushing mill building, which is a great place for kids (and dogs!) to – er – mill about in, there are information signs explaining the history of the mine.

File:Lecht Mine - geograph.org.uk - 180913.jpg

Whatever road route you take, the drive to The Lecht will be an experience too. It’s a beautiful area and there’s a great view of Corgarff Castle from the Lecht road.

I’ve enjoyed exploring parts of central and Eastern Scotland and seeing beautiful burns and majestic(!) mountains – this year we’re going to the Isle of Skye for our holidays, so I’m looking forward to exploring the West with its lovely locks and inspirational Isles!


B is for Boring: ‘Documentaries’, Prejudice, Perthshire and Oregon

Before anyone gets upset, I’m not declaring Perthshire (in Scotland, for non-UK visitors) or Oregon, USA boring. But when I was thinking about what I find boring this morning, I was concerned that this could turn into a whinge post. I looked up the word boring on Google to find if it had any alternative/ancient/quirky meanings I could work on, but had barely got past ‘not interesting; tedious’ when I spotted Boring in Oregon in the sidebar. So I clicked to see results for that instead – and came across the kind of quirky stuff that I love.

It seems the people of Boring in Oregon have trouble persuading people that it’s a great place to visit. So when the inhabitants of Dull in Perthshire (well, the members of the women’s book club, actually) approached them with the idea of twinning up for the sake of a laugh and good publicity in 2012, they voted yes.

The idea for a partnership came from a Dull resident who stumbled on Boring during a trip from Flagstaff, Arizona to Seattle. A church in Dull is pictured.
Dull, a hamlet in Perthshire, Scotland

Apparently the two places can’t be official twins because they’re too different (who knew there were RULES for that kind of thing??). Boring is a town with over 12,000 people and Dull is a tiny village with just 84 residents (although obviously big enough to have a single sex book club? Don’t even get me started on the equality issue…). So they’ve gone for a ‘declaration of pairing’ – sounds as bizarre as Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow’s ‘Conscious Uncoupling’ to me!

Boring has fewer than 7,500 residents and Dull has only about 80. Both are farming communities.

Dull (Gaelic derivation: may come from snare, meadow or coffin strap) and Boring (named after William H Boring, an early homesteader in the area), have really got into it. Dull got a new sign and marked the initial announcement with a street party in June that year, while inn Boring, they have a Dull and Boring Day on August 9th. There are bagpipes and ice-cream, apparently. Blimey!

And now the Australian town of Bland is keen to join. Well, they can’t use a ‘declaration of pairing’, can they. There’s three of them. It’s bad English.

So there you go – quirky and a lot more interesting than boring things. I find too many things to mention exceedingly boring indeed, but chief gripes would be people regurgitating prejudices they’ve grown up with and have never analysed for themselves – you know the ones. “Gypsies are thieves” (oh, do you know several hundred then, so you can at least make a judgment with some kind of actual basis, flawed though that may be?). “Homosexuals shouldn’t get married because marriage is for procreation” (where shall we start? There’s no marriage service in the bible, it’s been made up by ordinary common-or-garden humans; marriage didn’t exist in the way we think of it until a few hundred years ago; marriage doesn’t need to be just a Christian concept; if marriage is for procreation, let’s not let infertile impostors or women over 55 through that door with their wedding gear on, then. How dare they wish to get married when they’re obviously not doing so to produce children. Begone, elderly couple who just want to be together and young couple praying the IVF will work before they run out of cash).

My second most boring thing would be the increasing number of ‘documentaries’, many on supposedly ‘documentary’ channels, that are not documentaries at all but just a group of people with anger management issues posturing, arguing and generally acting up for the camera. From which I lean zilch, other than that the USA seems to love putting people on TV who show them in the worst possible light as a country. Thank heavens I don’t judge any country by a handful of its inhabitants…

I’m back! M to S

For various reasons I’ve not been able to blog daily on this challenge as I expected – for one thing, I had 10 days in Scotland without internet access!

Therefore I Must Cover the rest of the Alphabet in Just 2 Days. Eeeek.

So prepare yourself for a whistle-stop tour through the first things that pop into my head concerning these letters…

M – M is for marriage, of course, because I spent this morning on the equally fascinating occupations of writing reports and watching the Royal Wedding (yes, simultaneously. I’m sure the reports will be fine….). The trees in the Abbey were a lovely idea and the bride and groom looked genuinely over the moon. Good on ’em, I say. Despite having been married myself for nearly 19 years (OMG! How did THAT happen?), I’m not an out-and-out proponent of marriage; I don’t believe a piece of paper will keep you together, and in some circumstances I don’t believe it should, either. Staying with someone long-term is all about commitment, determination and accepting change in each other. I don’t necessarily think a wedding day delivers those things.

N- noise. The reason this leapt into my head – well, if you were sitting beside me, you wouldn’t need to ask. Constructo Boy turned 11 this week and he has his two best friends around for a sleepover. They are currently in the opposite room with Arty Daughter looking at aggravating videos on YouTube (currently they’re watching the one that repeats ‘We’re taking the Hobbits to Isenguard, to Isenguard, to Isenguard, We’re taking…’ ad infinitum.
It’s mildly amusing. The first three times.

O- Omar Sharif. You see? Literally, honestly, the first thing that leaps into my head. Now I’m stuck, because I know nothing about Omar Sharif, except that he’s in Lots of Things. Oh, and he was fantastic in the hilarious The Parole Officer (which everyone should see).

P – pennies. Ooh! What can I learn about them? Just scanned the Wikipedia article (thanks, Wiki, I’m proud to donate to you!) and offer these two paragraphs that caught my attention:

Old English versions of the word penny are penig, pening, penning and pending; the word appears in German as Pfennig, in Dutch as penning, and in West Frisian as peinje or penje. These words are thought by some to have common roots with the English word “pawn”, German Pfand, and Dutch pand, words which mean “a pledge or token”.[1]

The penny was introduced into England by King Offa, the king of Mercia(from 757 until his death in July 796), using as a model a coin first struck by Pepin the Short. King Offa minted a penny made of silver which weighed 221?2 grains or 240 pennies weighing one Saxon pound (or Tower pound—equal to 5,400 grains—as it was afterwards called), hence the term pennyweight.

Q – oh no, I have a dilemma. Two of Terry Pratchett’s random thought particles entered my mind at the same time: Queen and quiz. Well the Queen was looking chipper at the wedding today, although personally I would never dress in yellow unless I was threatened with torture. She wasn’t wearing matching shoes, perhaps feeling (correctly IMHO) that yellow shoes were a step (ho ho) too far. But the beige shoes did clash. Sorry, your Majesty.

As for quiz, Wikipedia says:
The first appearance of the word is from 1784 and means an odd person. This sense survives today in the word “quizzical”. It was also used in the term quizzing glass, a common accoutrement of British Regency dandies. It later acquired a meaning of to make fun of, or to mock. How it acquired its current meaning of a test is unknown, but that sense did not appear until 1867 and then it was in the United States.

The OED2 has a citation from 1847 where the word appears: “She com back and quiesed us”, which could be a clue to its origin. Quiz as a test could be a corruption of the Latin Qui es, meaning “Who are you?” American Heritagesays it may be from the English dialect verb quiset, meaning to question. In any case it is probably from the same root as question and inquisitive.

There is a well-known myth about the word “quiz”, which says that in 1791 a Dublin theater owner named James Daly made a bet that he could introduce a word into the language within twenty-four hours. He then went out and hired a group of street urchins to write the word “quiz”, which was a nonsense word, on walls around the city of Dublin. Within a day, the word was common currency and had acquired a meaning (since no one knew what it meant, everyone thought it was some sort of test) and Daly had some extra cash in his pocket. However, there is no evidence to support the story, and the term was already in use before the alleged bet in 1791.[1]

I’d not heard this myth. Fascinating!

R – rabies and rats. Strange but true; these seemingly disagreeable subjects are both mentioned in my light-hearted story, Pop, which appears in the 100 Stories For Queensland. How can this be true, I hear you cry. Buy the book and find out, I reply! And donate money to a great cause at the same time 🙂

S – Scotland. I love Scotland. I don’t love the journey there – not when we’re stuck in the everlasting roadworks near Scotch Corner, or the ones (rife in Scotland at the moment) that last for miles and require you to go at 40 miles an hour for no apparent reason. But I do love the journey up through the Cairngorms to Braemar (via Glenshee and the A93), then on to the in-laws. The only things that ruins Scotland’s beauty, for me, is that darn tendency of theirs to build everything in shades of grey. Lighten up, oh ye architects and builders of Scotland! Some of your houses really are blots on the landscape.

If you’ve survived this far – congrats. You have tomorrow to look forward to – T to Z!