New Year, New Start: an End, a Beginning

It’s hard to know how to start this, but let’s go for it anyway. If you’re a regular reader/viewer of Contemplating the Clouds, have you noticed that the frequency of posts has dropped substantially over the last month or two? Well, there are at least three of you that probably have, but then agian that’s because you already know.

Know what? I hear you ask. Well, to put none-too-subtle a point to it, Contemplating the Clouds is coming to an end. In fact, this is the final post.

Bratislava at sunset

The final sunset of my three-city holiday in 2012: Bratislava Castle

After two and a bit years of blogging away, it is time to move on and move up. From my perspective, Contemplating has reached a natural point at which to stop and I’d like to take the opportunity to thank each and every one of you for reading. Whether you read virtually every post or just one or two, I do appreciate the fact that it is being read.

In the last 26 and a half months the blog has come quite a long way – and I hope very much for the better. From simple photos with barely even a title that no one really saw to certain posts which get traffic almost every single day, and from silence to long wordy rambles; it has, above all, been one gigantic learning curve. One that has made me realise some things I absolutely love doing, helped me to get and understand my job, and one that has allowed me to share my passion for various things in a way that people seem to quite enjoy.

The Giraffe, National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh

The Giraffe in the NMS

Some of the most popular things that I’ve done are probably not too surprising: posts on the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, the National Museum of Scotland and The Water of Leith all rank in the top 10 posts, in terms of visitors (with reviews on the NMS’s exhibitions on Mummies and Catherine the Great also featuring in the top 20). The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee gin-fest, the Olympics and my trip to Moscow are also up there, along with a couple of posts about St Andrews and Graduation (the latter two get visited almost every time either of them is in the news). All in all, I think I can say with some confidence that the blog that started out as a good way to procrastinate that looked more studious that staring out the window, contemplating the clouds, has morphed into something a whole lot more.

Tower bridge and the Olympic Rings

Tower Bridge, during the Olympic Games

There are definitely some things I’ve really enjoyed: going on a behind-the-scenes tour of the Virgin Money Festival Fireworks in 2011 was a treat, so was writing about the Olympics and my little holiday to Moscow, Vienna and Bratislava last year. The two blog-birthday ‘Year in Photos‘ series also rank in my highlights, as do the G&T cheesecake and the Chilli and Lime gin.  The entire premise behind Instagrammers Anonymous has been great fun, and that’s without even mentioning St Andrews and some of the heartfelt posts about it.

A year in photos, st andrews, sunlight

St Andrews: Where it all began

But in this world all good things must come to an end. It is not without sadness that I’m hanging up my boots for Contemplating – and don’t worry, it will still be here if you want to read it, there just won’t be any updates – in fact, it was not an easy decision at all, but it’s time to move on to something more.

Chocolate and Ginger cake with Orange butter icing

The Chocolate and Ginger cake – the most viewed post

In the round up of popular posts above I ommited an entire category of posts: food. Food and drink is, as is probably fairly obvious to regular readers/people that know me, a big part of my life. I absolutely love it. I love making it, I love sharing it, I love tasting it, I love talking about it and I love writing about it. Of the top twenty posts on this blog, 10 of the top 20 are based around food or drink. And if you look at the search terms the blog gets found for then 14 of the top 30 relate either to food or drink. Can you spot where this is going?

If you’re curious, then the top two search terms, and the most read post relate to this: the chocolate and ginger cake with orange icing that I made for my Mum’s birthday back in 2011. The searches in positions four and five relate to the second most popular page – the Gin and Tonic Cheesecake. Thinking about it, there’s a fairly obvious direction that we’re heading in.

Sure, I could have just continued on Contemplating and just altered the blog’s theme to be more foodie-orientated, but I took the difficult decision to start over a little while back. Since late November I’ve been writing a few posts and getting a few things sorted out elsewhere on the big bad world-wide web and now seems like the right time to take it to the rest of the world. Please let me introduce you to The Usual Saucepans. Here you will find my latest kitchen adventures, my successes, my ‘must do better next time’ dishes, my love for all things local, and many other things besides. Over the next twleve months I hope to add more and more to this little recipe list and maybe throw in a few exciting twists here and there. So why don’t you pull up a stool, grab a plate and a glass and join me?

I’ve had a lot of fun writing Contemplating the Clouds, and have learnt many valuable leasons from it. But with a new year comes new priorities, new opportunities and so much more. I hope you will come over to The Usual Saucepans and join me there, but first and foremost let me say thank you for reading Contemplating the Clouds and making it such a pleasure to write.

Until the next time,


The first photo to ever appear on the blog

The first (and last) photo to ever appear on the blog

A Year in Photos: Saturday – Black and White St Andrews

Today is the final post of A Year in Photos, ending a week of posts celebrating the first birthday of Contemplating the Clouds. Throughout this week we’ve had cakes, Munros, ice skating, lobsters, buildings, gin and snow (to name but a few); but now we’ve reached the final part of the saga – my love of black and white photos, and of St Andrews.

Having lived there for the majority of the time I’ve been writing this blog St Andrews has, unsurprisingly, featured with great regularity. Black and white photos have also appeared fairly constantly too, so in honour of this (and because I really like these photos) here are the final two photos.

The first of the photos was taken on the day of the Procession, in April, however, I used it in the post before, so it could stand alone. St Salvator’s was published on the 17th April. St Salvator’s Chapel – or Sallies Chapel, as it’s more commonly known – is the oldest surviving building of the University and is located in the main quadrangle, off North Street. The chapel tower, one of the tallest structures in the town, is a notable landmark on the town’s ever welcoming skyline.A year in photos, St Salvator's, St Andrews

Our final stop on this whistle-stop tour of the year comes from the 20th June and The First Few Days. This post represents one of a series (the only continuous series I’d done, before this week) about graduation week. This series follows my friends and I through our final days together in the Bubble. Doing various things around town we’d never got round to doing, the final days before we graduated, our graduation, and the end of an era, when we were no longer undergraduates of by “far and a way the best university in the world” (HRH Prince William, Feb 2011). Somehow I had never got round to climbing St Rule’s Tower (in the grounds of the cathedral) during my four years of studying, and so it was one of the final things we did. This photo is taken looking North west from the top of the tower, out past the cathedral, to the castle and West Sands, the golf courses and the mountains in the distance. It is one of my favourite views of all time.St Andrews, A year in photos

And there we have it. Those are twelve of my favourite photos that have appeared on the blog. I chose them from the 400 odd that have appeared here over the past twelve months for fairly selfish reasons, but also because I think they are a fairly good representation of the last twelve months. I hope you’ve enjoyed the seven posts of this series as much as I have and that you approve of my choice of photos. If you want to see any of them again there will be a special page with all twelve ‘A Year in Photos‘ photos on it as of tomorrow. If you like what you have seen, then I hope you will come back and read more of the blog soon (there’s a link to subscribe on the right hand side, near the top).


There’s just one last thing. This series wouldn’t be quite complete without my favourite photo of all. It is, of course, my header photo. I waxed lyrical about it in the 100th post back in August, so if you’d like to know the details please look there. Otherwise, just sit back and contemplate the clouds with me…Me at Stella Point, Mt Kilimanjaro

A Photo Collage

After a long, protracted, arduous examination of ever corner of the cyber world (totally not just going to Google) I have come up with this, a photo collage.

In May, once the dissertation (of doooooom) was handed in, I rather nostalgically decided to do something I’d been meaning to do for a couple of years: take all those photos of the ‘Bubble’ one last time so they could be put together for ever more. More precisely the challenge was talk take lots of photos (most of which will always draw up memories), but ‘not just do the obvious landmarks, to get those little parts that no one usually sees’.

All of the photos can be viewed individually on the Challenge page by clicking on their titles (although a couple link to posts with multiple shots).

Here is the final collage:

Photo Challenge Collage; St Andrews; Landmarks


First Few Days

St Andrews, from St Rule’s Tower

And so I’ve now been back for a few days I hear you enquire ‘what have you been doing?’ Well… erm… mainly just eating and drinking, to be perfectly honest… Well and checking a few things off the bucket list.

Cous cous – so good they named it twice…
The Bell Tower

To quickly summarise Saturday: it was miserable weather and so instead of going out to do things we had a long lunch, went for coffee, then a quick jaunt to the pub (or two) and then back to make dinner. And I’m not even joking. Unsurprisingly this lead to us being a little too full and in need of a late evening digestive walk.

Luckily Sunday turned out to be a much better morning, meaning there was enough time for a quick trip to the cathedral. This, apart from the obvious enjoyable factor, served nicely as part of both the photo challenge and my bucket list – as I’d never climbed St Rule’s Tower before (despite having lived here for four years – that organised). As luck would have it this made us perfectly on time – OK, ten minutes late – for lunch with Kat at Mitchell’s, which was as gorgeous as expected.

The Cathedral
Looking up the inside of the tower
Looking out over town

The pier
The double tower

And as if that wasn’t enough fun for one weekend, we’ve only reached Sunday evening. Scary a time as it may be, I’m now thoroughly looking forward to it!


Because We Can!

“A trip to Pittenweem? I would love to, but couldn’t possibly justify taking the time off.” That has pretty much summed up my responses to that particular question for most of the last two years. Whenever the weather gets ‘nice enough’ that such trips aren’t going to result in arguments and frostbite I always seem to have loads to do.

This is where fourth year syndrome kicked in again. ‘It’s your last chance to do it!’ style attitude gives it a sense of urgency, and since discovering  The Cocoa Tree at the farmers’ market, a trip became somewhat of a must. Now that spare time is a little less of a scarcity hopping on the bus and ‘making a day of it’ doesn’t really seem like a problem! Luckily Pittenweem is a short half hour away from the Bubble on the X60, so really there was no excuse.

To say that there isn’t a whole lot there would pretty much sum the place up. The place was pretty much a ghost town (although, in fairness it was a Monday lunchtime in mid May), but a very picturesque ghost town, so all is forgiven.

We took a wander around the town (didn’t take hugely long) before wandering down to the harbour. It is still a working harbour (thus lots of boats, nets and lobster pots – the latter two of which pile up quite nicely on the wall) although very much scaled back from what it, presumably, once was. I am not going to go into an rant about EU fisheries policy – I think most of the world has an opinion on it – but it’s safe to say that I’m on the scientific side of the argument (being a biologist, having a brain, etc.). Whatever your opinion, it’s a lovely sight.

The weather was fairly against us on our little trip, the howling wind was fairly whipping the salty air into our faces, and the breakers were giving the rocks and harbour a bit of a battering. However, this does make for fun photos. I am a big fan of the dramatic nature of black and white shots, as I alluded to the other day with the teaser shots, so I had far too much fun.

I am not sure exactly how many photos I ended up taking, but I think it was probably a lot more than was strictly necessary.

As well as black and white, I am also quite a fan of my panoramic shots as well as ‘views’ along the pier. Call it what you will, but I had a great little trip to the harbour, even if it was a little windswept.

For some reason – presumably that I got distract by all the chocolate – I didn’t get any photos of the Cocoa Tree. The shop its self was pretty small, in a non-descript building at the end of the high street, however, the smell was fantastic. I came away with lemon flavoured chocolate, white chocolate to make muffins with and some ‘healthy[ish]’ dark chocolate for my flatemate to pretend was ‘better’ to eat than normal chocolate. The cafe is at the back of the shop and is decorated with a huge variety of old chocolate adverts from across the world. It took the poor waitress three attempts to get our order, because every time we went to look at the menu we got distracted by another poster on the wall. Woops. All in all, very good sandwiches, lovely scone, and the hot chili-chocolate was gorgeous.

After a little more wandering around town we headed back to the bus stop and headed back to the Bubble. It was certainly something different to do with part of a day, but it was thoroughly enjoyable, and I would recommend a trip to the Cocoa Tree (or their Farmers’ Market stall, to those strapped for time) for anyone who even vaguely likes chocolate.