Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Friday, October 19, 2012

A is for Antenna, B is for Bird, C is for Cody

We've just had a kind of holiday-within-a-holiday: we're staying at the Ballater float this week, but last night we bed-and-breakfasted at a place called Maud, near Fraserburgh. (I so want to open a garden centre there, so I could have as my slogan "Come in to the Garden Centre, Maud".) Hilary had had a work meeting at Aberdeen University in the morning, so she did that while I pottered about the old medieval bit of Aberdeen, having great fun in the King's College Museum and looking at all the old gravestones around St Machar's cathedral. (I love the way Victorian graves in Scotland, especially Edinburgh of course, tend to be made grave-robber-proof to foil Burke & Hare types wanting to dig up fresh corpses to sell to anatomists. Sometimes they have great iron cages over the top called mortsafes, but in Aberdeen they mostly either had huge stone canopies like four-poster beds about a foot off the ground, or simply a damned great stone slab (and I mean the size of your car and six inches thick) covering the grave.

Anyway, academic deals done and graves duly inspected, we headed off to get lunch and then to the bird reserve at Loch of Strathbeg to see the pink-footed geese (16,000 or so). We didn't see all of them, but we saw a few thousand as they came in in waves at dusk. Meanwhile we'd been watching widgeon, teal, several hundred whooper swans, cormorants, goldeneye, and one guy with a serious telescope reckoned the distant bird of prey on a post might have been a white-tailed eagle (there was one about all week according to the reserve book so it's quite likely: my binoculars couldn't image it that well, good though they are). There's nothing quite like the experience of seeing - and hearing - hundreds of geese flying low overhead and wheeling in to land. Oh, and we saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker on a feeder.

The RSPB reserve was recently in the news for its plans to install a small wind turbine. Donald Trump of course went apeshit (his big eyesore golf course is just a few miles away and we drove past it on the way), but quite apart from the actual figures which the RSPB had obtained for the risk to birds (as you can see, very small) there are a couple of other relevant facts. One is that that corner of Scotland, because it's so windy, is full of turbines of varying sizes, mostly in ones and twos rather than massive arrays, so any bird that stays in the area will rapidly get the hang of the things. The other is that the reserve is right alongside some Ministry of Defence property (indeed, you have to drive through a disused airfield to reach it). The property in question is a seriously big radio transmitter array (three guyed antennae several hundred feet high). It's hard to see what the RSPB could put up that would even come close to forming that kind of obstacle: yet the birds keep on coming, and avoiding it.

Then today we came back to Ballater via Deer Abbey (a rather good ruin) and Aberdeen, where we did some shopping and saw (and enjoyed) the latest Woody Allen film. It was pouring with rain, and there were three middle-aged guys (one with a tartan umbrella) drinking their Starbucks coffees at a table outside on the pavement. We commented to the barista that they didn't even seem to have gone out so as to smoke, and she said that no, they came every day and sat outside, whatever the weather. Sheesh.

Finally we stopped off in Aboyne where a few days earlier we'd spotted a rather cool set of framed pictures (one artistically-distressed frame, six old photographs) of Buffalo Bill, which we thought would look good in the porch (just inside our front door) in Edinburgh. So a good couple of days.

Oh, the B&B from Mr & Mrs Hepburn of Pond View, Brucklay, Maud, was excellent. And just north of Aberdeen we passed a road sign to a place called Tarty, which prompted me to wonder if they had a Women's Institute, and Hilary to respond that if they did it definitely should do a calendar.

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