Monday, January 31, 2011

A Grand Day Out

On Saturday, young George and I planned an outing to Edinburgh.  We were going to go to the zoo and see the penguins.   The great thing about going to the zoo in January is that it is practically EMPTY.  If you don't mind walking around in the cold (which we don't) you get to enjoy the zoo in relative peace.   As we travelled along the M8 toward Edinburgh, the big sign for Deep Sea World came into view.  

"George, it's decision time.  Deep Sea World or the zoo.  What do you want to do?"
"Deep Sea World!  Good call Mom!"

Ok, so we had an instant change of direction.   It takes us just as long to get to Deep Sea World in North Queensferry as it does to get to the zoo.   It is an indoor attraction, so naturally it was very crowded on a Saturday afternoon.

Under the Forth Bridge
 Deep Sea World is under one of the most beautiful bridges in the world, The Forth Bridge.

The Forth Road Bridge
 It is an elegant bridge and anytime I am driving across the The Forth Road Bridge (which I suspect was built so that we could have a better view of the rail bridge), I always want to stop, get out and feast my eyes.  Naturally, this would cause traffic chaos and I never do, but I think about it each and every time I drive over the Firth of Forth.

So, one of the benefits of visiting Deep Sea World in North Queensferry is the close proximity to beautiful Scottish engineering.  

It was, as we suspected, a lot more crowded than the zoo would have been.  The first time we took George to Deep Sea World, he was about two years old.  he came down with chicken pox two weeks later.  It is a hazard of taking children into the wider world.  They not only get to see the world around them, but they also get exposed to infection!

The two of us had a lovely day and we did not get ill afterward.  We had arrived just in time to see them feeding the two resident harbor seals.  A mother and daughter who had been taught a few crowd pleasing tricks.

We saw one of our favourite fish, the Picasso Triggerfish - (Pacific version)

Malawi Cichlids

We saw a number of other tropical fish that we have seen in the wild during dive trips.  When I saw them, it felt like we were stopping by to see old friends.

Sand Tiger - Deep Sea World 

Naturally they have the big shark tank and that is fun.  The sand tiger shark with its rows of pointy fish nibbling teeth is the star of that show by virtue of its size.  I have become quite immune to the charms of big sharks in the tank.  True to form, I was quite happy looking at the little stuff.  I think the smaller dogfish is much prettier and more interesting.

Spotted dogfish

After seeing all, watching the seals and frogs getting fed we called time and drove home. 

If you live in Scotland - please visit Deep Sea World  - it is well worth the effort!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Loch Long

I was out with the most excellent Dumfries & Galloway Sub Aqua Club on Sunday.

We planned to go to Loch Long one of the west of Scotland's sea lochs in Argyle & Bute. 

Old pier - Loch Long
We planned to dive in a spot called Conger Alley on the loch.  This meant driving a little longer to get there so we met in the Whitesands car park in Dumfries an hour earlier than we normally do.

It is still quite dark at 07.30 but we all showed up on time.  We got our tanks and we were off!

As we drove north to our destination, I noted with glee that there wasn't a breath of wind, there was no snow (or fog) and the temperatures that had been quite low for some weeks had eased and it was a mild day.

It was a bit overcast but that did not detract from the stunning beauty of one of Scotland's prettiest sea lochs. 

The water temperature was at about 6 C.  That's not too bad but I prefer it to be a bit warmer.  The visibility was good.  The overcast conditions meant that the dive was rather dark.  As we got deeper, it got darker.

There were a few things to see - squat lobsters, crabs, tiny fish zipping back under rocks as we approached them.   I think if we were to do that dive again, I would stay shallow and poke around in the sea weed rather than to go deeper.

Dumfries divers
I tell you something - I had a really nice day out.  The scenery was beautiful, the weather was mild and these three gentlemen were the kindest, most helpful diving companions a gal could ask for.

Sadly, we didn't find Conger Alley, but it was dark and only one of us had ever been there before.  It is still there and we can always go back.  We still saw plenty of things that interest us.   I took my camera into the sea with me, but I didn't take any photos.  I will save that for another time when the light is a bit better.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Feeling Better - Let's Walk the Dog

We are turning the corner with the flu bug.  I'm working at about 78% capacity and thought the long suffering hound could really do with a nice long walk.
I bundled up and took her up the road to our favourite walk.  It snowed about an inch last night and I could see we were the first and only visitors to the pond today.  Well, the only domestic visitors . . .
There were some deer tracks.

By this little hill, I could see where some pheasants had been dragging their sleds around in the snow.
Then there was evidence of a fox.

 I got this shot of the fox's path through the snow before Polly could go and bounce all over the tracks and spoil it.
The fox had zig zagged all up and down the snowy lane looking for something, anything to eat.

This tree looked lacey with the snow still clinging to its branches.
I don't know if you can tell from this photo how quiet it was . . . . but I could only hear my footsteps and own breath.
Here's our pond.  It looks different all silent and frozen.  In a few months - this bit of water will be heaving with the activity of spring but for now, it is still.

This surprised me - the moles - blast their furry hides - are still active.  This mole hill at the side of the road was made fresh this morning.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Thank you Google Street View

As the Man of the Place and I mope around the house and swallow stuff that will make us feel better until this stupid virus is finished with us, I have been comforting myself with a bit of desktop travel.  

The place I have been going to lately is the dear State of North Dakota.  I find I can travel through most of the state on Google Street View.

I haven't been to North Dakota since about 1979 so there was bound to be change. I was ready for it.

I went to our old house, just outside Bismarck .  . .well it used to be just outside Bismarck.  It is most definitely in town now.   The road in front of the house used to be a dirt road that the county would oil in the summer to keep the dust down.  Can you imagine using oil in that manner now?  Times have changed and that dirt road is now an express way.    The fields around the house are now lovely houses, so I guess the gopher problem has been solved.

View Larger Map

Somethings have stayed the same though.   The majesty of the Dakota plains is still there.   There is still something spiritual to me about this landscape.  I may have said this before, I feel we imprint on the first landscapes we see as children and I certainly feel it when I see North Dakota on a late summer day through this new option on Google.
View Larger Map

It's a bison! Right there on the side of the road, eating grass!!!

I have been quite homesick for wide prairies, choke cherries and garter snakes.  I think it's the far horizons that I miss the most.  Where you stand on a hill and the sky seems like a big blue dome because there is nothing to block your view for 360 degrees.   I'm thankful that I can at least sneak a peek at these places without having to spend a small fortune to do it.

Perhaps it is my youth that I miss.  The tanned shins getting scratched running through the sagebrush and under the cottonwood trees.  I swear I can almost smell it.

I would love to see the state one more time, but I really don't know how feasible that will be.  I weighed it up in my head . . . . move back or stay here . . . . I would miss Scotland far more if I moved back.   There is also a family that has never known any home but this one.   I've been here so long that my roots have become permanent.  I'd probably not die if I were to leave, but I'd never be the same again and neither would they.  I wouldn't consider inflicting that pain on them.  That doesn't mean that from time to time, my eyes don't yearn to see some prairie (and naturally those dear folks I know who live there).

Hello North Dakota!

Monday, January 03, 2011

This is Not What I Had Planned

I was going to start the new year with tales of intrepid dives along the Irish Sea or possibly the North Sea depending on the direction of the wind . . .

New Year's Eve saw me calling things off because I was developing a deep cough.  It is forbidden to dive with a cough or plugged up nose.  It is way too dangerous for a delicate human body and definitely not worth any risk.

So, the first day of the new year saw me at home - sniffing, coughing and watching old movies and playing with my new camera and lovingly stroking the Ikelite underwater housing that showed up under the tree at the same time.  So, I have figured out zoom, delete, whitebalance (important for underwater photography), moving image, macro and a bunch of other features.

A few days on and I'm a little better but The Man of the Place has been struck down with this bug as well.  I'm phoning the doctor in the morning. 

When there are flu like symptoms the advice is to not go to the doctor, let him come to you. 

Just stay away . . . it isn't pleasant around here.