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

Day 13: Carlton Hill

I was walking down St Giles Street last week (yup, this is the last of the pre-prepared posts, I’m back tomorrow) and realised that you could see Carlton Hill from the corner. It’s slightly edited, mainly because it was such a dull day and the photo would be various shades of grey otherwise.Edinburgh, Carlton Hill, Old Town, Lent, 40 Days of photos


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


Flags, Hills and Buildings

The penultimate photo challenge post! (about time, I hear you say).

Well, I thought it was about time really – especially since it’s now been a fortnight since I left St Andrews.

For starters I think I will go with the sign. There is only one street in St A that regularly makes websites like ‘funniest street names’ or such like. I am, of course,
talking about Butts Wynd [not pronounced Wind, but you know…]. Nestled between the quad and the old union it takes you from North St to the Scores (or vice versa) and it offers the best view of the chapel’s tower as the sun goes down. But let’s be honest, we love it most because it has a funny name…

Best Street Name Ever? Butts WyndThe Flag (on University House)As for the flag, well, I couldn’t really pick. The obvious options were the flag on the West Port, those on the chapel tower or college hall, or perhaps even those by the castle; however, those would be too easy. They would also, for the most part, overlap with other parts of the challenge. So, to the less obvious then. I happened to be walking down the Scores one evening and looked up at University House (official resident of the Principal) and realised that it has a flag! Hey presto…

But it then it hit me. Surely the mention of flags in St A could not be complete without a modest nod to the town being the ‘home’ of golf. Whilst my golfing abilities might not be honed to perfection I can still complete the putting green without embarrassing myself (too much), so this was taken on an afternoon trip to the Himalayas – the link trust’s putting green.

Golfing time?At the Botanic GardensAnother place which I have discovered more recently (well, or more like finally getting round to visiting for pleasure) is the Botanic Gardens. It is a very interesting place with a fascinating history (originally built by the biology dept, but now belonging to the council, yet still sharing strong links to bio). It is also one of my five hidden gems of St Andrews which I wrote about for the Visit St Andrews blog.

The next two photos are actually duplicates – they have already been covered, but the anlges presented themselves, so I thought I would include them anyway.

At the point where South Street meets North Street sits the cathedral. It forms much of the skyline that we are all used to with the two ends still (almost) standing, and of course the angular physique of St Rule’s tower standing alongside them.The Cathedral St Andrews

The Swilcan bridge must surely be one of the most iconic parts of the Old Course – part of the ‘trilogy’, on the back of the old five pound notes, and in many a student’s photo album.

Swilcan bridge/Old Course Hotel

The Travelator

Something that everyone living past Queen’s Terrace faces on an almost daily basis is ‘the Travelator’. For those who don’t know it, it is a rather steep ramp that takes you from the badlands into the town centre, saving the humble pedestrian the long, arduous walk to the road. It is a groan that announces that the next weary student has reached the base camp of their climb; heavy laden with their laptop, that day’s collection of books, a thermos of coffee and not a Sherpa in sight… Although often bemoaned by those trekking up it does save us a lot of time being able to sneak up into the centre of town, instead of walking round on the road (which is oh so far…).

To end this little challenge I can see no more fitting a way than using the building that takes in students and processes them out as young graduates. Younger Hall, built in the time of Principal Irvine and Field Marshal Haig (Chancellor), is the concert hall of the University and is used for all large ceremonies (such as graduation) as it is the only theatre in town that can hold 1,500 people. Fittingly this photo was actually on the evening of my graduation June.

Younger Hall

Now comes the fun part – trying to stitch all of these photos together. This may take some time…


Back to the Place Where it All Began

And so it is complete – I now have all the photos that are going to make up the Photo Challenge. Over this post and the next I’ll put those final photos up. With any luck I am also going to make them into some sort of photo collage (so if anyone knows a good online software thing to do that let me know, I’m currently drawing a blank!) As always if you want a closer look at the pictures click on them and they should enlarge nicely.

I’m not really sure how these got to where they are, but I’m going to count them as ‘off the beaten track’ (I have been very loose with this rule, I know) because most people don’t see them. Most people don’t look up!

These boots have been hanging on the wires that hold up the Christmas light (one would assume) since the lights came down this year. That is one dare that has enduring curiosity.

This next one, I’m happy to say is actually an edit to this post. The original photo wasn’t really up to scratch, but as it was the only one that I’d taken (or at least thought I’d taken) within the specified time frame it would have to do. Happily I was taking photos off my camera this afternoon and I came across this shot – I’d completely forgotten about it, but it is here to save the day. This was taken from just beside the viewing area out the back of MUSA, looking out over the Witching Pond to West Sands, the golf courses and the hills in the distance. I think it’s not a stretch to say that I’m considerably more pleased with this one. West Sand Photo Challenge

Somewhere else that I’ve always liked, but have to admit I know absolutely nothing about, is the bandstand. I genuinely cannot tell you a single interesting fact about this structure, apart from that I did once hear a brass band playing on it whilst at work last summer.

Band Stand St Andrews

Having taken many a tour group past and talked about the castle I could probably wax lyrical about its somewhat turbulent history,

St Andrews Castle

but no one wants that so I’ll say that the original castle was built 800 years ago and that there was at least one large hall that no longer exists (even in ruin) because coastal erosion has worn the cliff away!

One of the places on this list may seem a bit of an odd choice – John Burnet Hall. Why JBH? Of all the halls of residence, why this one? Quite simply — because I am ex-Atholl. John Burnet used to be my home (sigh…). It was here we had punch out of bins (sanitised slightly, of course) and played American football in the corridors as freshers, thus it seemed only right to use here to represent all of the halls of residence.

John Burnet Hall
There is only one instalment to go now, then I will have to come up with a way of stitching them all together. After that, of course, I’ll have to come up with some new challenge to keep me busy!