Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Scottish money

Scotland uses Pounds Sterling like the rest of the UK but the notes are different. There's no central mint up here and the banks print their own - with notable Scots portrayed on them, no Queen. At the moment I have English notes from the Royal Mint, Royal Bank of Scotland notes and Clydesdale Bank notes. And they're all different. Interesting but confusing.

Meanwhile, it's still going to be windy today but not as bad as yesterday (I hope!). And there's another ash cloud on its way from Iceland. 400 people spent the night in Edinburgh airport due to flight cancellations through ash and wind concerns. Luckily, I'm travelling on the ground :)


Monday, May 23, 2011


Well here I am in Edinburgh and it's blowing a gale. Positively gaelic! The castle is closed, the gardens are closed, the cruise boats are cancelled, the Firth of Forth bridge is closed. Holyroodhouse Palace is closed till June because the Church of Scotland has taken it over for something or other.
Hopefully the weather will improve and things will open up again!

Edinburgh looks like a really nice town. It's clean and there's a real feeling of space about the place. Today I wandered along Princes Street, alongside the gardens with the castle perched on its rock beyond them. There are statues of various Scottish notables along the edge of the gardens. The Scott Monument (Sir Walter Scott) is impressive. I'll get a decent photo later I hope.

Edinburgh Castle

One of the stranger sights was the tartan scaffolding outside a shop.

Tartan scaffolding

I sure hope the weather improves as I think I'm going to enjoy exploring this town.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Not much happening....

I'm kind of stranded at the moment. My debit card expires this month and expedia and the like won't accept it because of that. I can still get cash but am having trouble booking anywhere on the 'net. Waiting, waiting for the new card to arrive at Mum's so she can send it to me. I don't want to take off anywhere in case the old card suddenly stops working: then I'd really be stranded!

I went to Knowsley Safari Park last week. It's about 5 minutes from here. I was expecting something forlorn and tatty, being so close to the city and all. However, it's a really pleasant day out. 550 acres of grass and parkland inhabited by various animals, mostly from Africa. There are a few emus and two tigers (both asleep!) to represent the rest of the world, but mostly there are lions, deer, antelope, etc. Elephants, of course, meerkats to make you smile, white rhinos, cape buffalo, etc. It's one of those places where you stay in the car and drive through the park. I took lots of photos of course.
There's also a section where you can walk around and get closer to the elephants, meerkats and giraffes. The giraffes are kept in a separate, sheltered enclosure because apparently they get too cold out in the park and it makes them ill. Poor things.
The sun was out so the animals were all lazing and grazing out in the (relative) warmth.


These Scimitar-horned Oryx are extinct in their native habitat:

Scimitar-horned oryx

They come from North Africa and were doing fine until the advent of four-wheel drive vehicles. That made it easier for the nasties with guns to get at them. For their horns I suppose.
The preservation of endangered animals is the only real justification for zoos and parks like this.
The sealion enclosure is entertaining with the sealions performing tricks for fish. I felt a bit sorry for them having to perform like that but, as I said, it was entertaining.

Who needs Wayne Rooney?

I also learnt the difference between sealions and seals: the front flippers! Seals have very small ones which are of little use. Sealions have big, strong ones which they use for swimming and also for walking around on land with. And for clapping with when they've done something clever.

Because it was a public holiday, the park was quite busy. Lots of family groups having picnics, kids having fun on the fairground rides (there are the gentle type rides only), endless queues of cars crawling round the park. All in all, a pleasant day out.

I went camera shopping the other day. I'd read about the Canon TSE lens which has separate tilt and shift options to get rid of distortion on wide shots. I was interested to have a look as I'm sick of buildings and towers looking like they're leaning inwards. But there are none to be had in the UK because of the Japanese earthquake. Apparently lots of lenses, computer chips and other electronic bits and bobs are in short supply because of the damage and disruption caused by the earthquake. So I bought a new camera instead. The Canon 5D Mark II. My old 5D is still working fine but is old and tired and the sensor is filthy. The Mark II has automatic sensor cleaning as well as video and is just better all round. It came with the 24-105mm lens which seems to be quite nice too. The 28-135mm lens I've had on the old 5D is really worn out. If I point the camera at the ground the lens just slides out to its zoom length all by itself. It really was in need of replacement. Not sure I really needed to buy the camera to go with it though. It's really an unjustifiable expense but...what the hell, I'm happy. Cheaper than if I'd bought it at home anyway.
Of course, since I bought it it's done nothing but rain. Figures.

The plan is (as soon as my new card come through!!!) to go to Scotland for a couple of weeks. Seeing as I've recently been to Land's End I really should get to John O'Groats. :)
Then I'll tackle the continent again.
I've decided not to go home at the end of May as I haven't done all I set out to yet. I'll be here for a while longer yet.