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 Second Year In Photos: 50 Shades of Grey(scale)

Of all the wonders of photography and all the joy and vibrancy that colour brings to an image, I still love a good bit of black and white. Perhaps it’s the drama that they create, but there’s something about black and white images that I really like. Not all the time, that would leave you feeling a bit… uhm… grey, but if done occasionally it really makes it stand out.

Over the past year there have been quite a few black and white (or greyscale, if you prefer) photos on the blog, but unlike many of the other categories for A Second Year In Photos, I had no problems selecting which two images to use. In fact it was quite the opposite; I thought of these two before anything else, then found a category that would fit them both.

The first is the wonderful Edinburgh Castle and Princes Street Gardens, as see one sunny lunchtime in early March.
Edinburgh Castle, Princes Street Gardens, Sunlight, Walk, Spring, EdinburghThe second was taken during the Olympics when I was walking up the bank of the Thames. It’s of St Paul’s Cathedral, the millennium suspension bridge, and (possibly most importantly) the clouds and sky above it.
Black and white St Paul's Cathedral over the Millennium bridge.I hope you enjoy these photos as much as I do.

Tomorrow, for the final instalment of this year’s favourite photos, I’ll be returning to my old, but never tiresome (to me, at least), favourite: sunsets.


This is Why We Love Edinburgh

Summer may have arrived a little late (and damp) from the spring, but it’s now making up for lost time and brightening up all our days (if we ignore the ominous dark clouds currently hanging over the Castle).

The sun has been shining on Edinburgh for the past week – with only the occasional interruption of a shower – which means it’s time to go out and enjoy it. Let’s be honest, it’s hardly pessimistic to say that it won’t last.The trouble is I had to spend my weekend doing dull things (putting old text books on Amazon, tidying up the house to find some missing paperwork, etc.) so there was no adventure to blog about.

Not knowing how long this will last I decided to make the most of it yesterday evening and ditched the bus home in favour of the walk. This, and a little stroll at lunchtime, let me join the ranks of tourists taking photos of the city, in between trying not to be given too many Fringe flyers.

On my lunchtime trip to the post office (the whole book selling thing is working, seemingly) I went past the Spiegel Terrace bar in the middle of George Street, with the Royal Society of Edinburgh behind it.

I joined the massed ranks for tourists taking photos of Edinburgh Castle (although resisted the urge to shout about how quaint it was).Edinburgh Castle

On the walk home I went through the wonderful Dean Village – much more pleasant than walking along the main road – and wandered up the cobbled pavements which were glistening in the sun.Sunlight, cobbled pavement

Sitting above the Dean village, at the edge of the Dean bridge, is Holy Trinity Church. From the Dean village all you really see at this time of year is its bell tower edging up between the trees, floating in mid air. It’s an odd sight, but still beautiful in the golden evening sunlight.Holy Trinity Church, Dean Bridge, Edinburgh


Instagrammers Anonymous: Gin and Post Boxes

And like 9 am is followed rapidly by 5pm, another Monday is followed by another Friday – which means it must be time for another Instagrammers Anonymous.

After last weekend’s Foodies Festival and Fringe fun this week has been a time to sit back and suffer from post-Olympic ‘what do I do now?’ syndrome. There’s been a fair bit of hard work, and some sitting back in front of the TV – the Great British Bake-Off is back (does everyone else have an urge to go bake immediately after watching that, or is it just me?) and I watched an excellent ‘real life’ drama about Dr Guttmann and the patients of Stoke Mandeville Hospital where the Paralympic Games started (it was on BBC Two, go watch it on Iplayer, if you can, it will make you so excited for the Paralympics). But away from vegetating on the sofa here’s what I’ve seen this week:

There was the Foodies Festival last weekend, with cocktails from Hendrick’s.

I’ve watched hundreds of tourists take this photo, so thought I’d join them.Black and white image of Edinburgh Castle

And in case the lack of Olympic action is getting you down, I went past (one of) Sir Chris Hoy’s golden post boxes yesterday on Hanover Street.One of Sir Chris Hoy's Golden Olympic postboxes on Hanover Street in Edinburgh

Have a good weekend.

London 2012 – A Golden Dream for Our Greatest Team

Despite getting back from my Olympic adventures in London on Sunday evening I’ve only just managed to sit down and put all the photos on my laptop. And delete those that could only be described, charitably, as a double fault.

Here are a few of my favourites images and the moments they’re from:

There was, of course, the trip down to SW19 to see the Olympic Tennis – to soak up Murray Mania and the Team GB chants (I’ll save you the photo of me impersonating a picture of Pride the Lion, Team GB’s mascot). It was incredible, and Murray going on to clinch the gold just makes it even more special.Centre court at moonrise

We went to see the stage version of my favourite children’s film, the Lion King; something I’ve wanted to see for years. It was incredible. I’m still singing the songs.The exterior of the Lyceum theatre, London.

We sat down by London Bridge for a drink, and to soak up the view of HMS Belfast and the Olympic Rings on Tower Bridge.

There was then the matter of being a bit of a tourist to take photos of St Paul’s Cathedral and those interlocking rings on Tower Bridge.Black and white St Paul's Cathedral over the Millennium bridge.Tower bridge and the Olympic Rings

I had an incredible time in London, something I will remember for the rest of my life. I’ve been excited for the Olympics long before I realised I was going, and through the national cynicism I’ve always said that when the time came Britain would love the Olympics. We would all get very much into the Olympic spirit. And boy have we done that, I’ve never seen London, or the country as a whole, so jubilant about sport. And this is, without a doubt, being spurred on by the success of our athletes. Team GB have performed truly spectacularly and done us all proud – congratulations to one and all. Whoever it refers to, ‘Generation‘ I hope you are inspired – I know I certainly am.

Team GB: 500 Athletes, 60 million strong. Our greatest team.