Instagrammers Anonymous: Hello 2013

So, uhm, it’s 2013. Anyone know what happened to 2012? It seemed to pass quite quickly…

2013 may be set to be a slightly quieter year than 2012 – although that said I’ve a couple of exciting things lined up, including a little trip to the States in September for a good friend’s wedding – but I think we can all agree that’s probably because 2012 was something of a vintage year.

Here to see out the old, and usher in the new is the New Year edition of Instagrammers Anonymous:

Edinburgh is quite big in the New Year (or Hogmanay) stakes, and this year was to be extra special because it was the 20th anniversary of the first major street party. I’m not entirely sure what happened in 92/3 to warrant such a party, but 20 years on it’s still going strong. One of the big highlights each year is the torchlight procession that weaves its fiery way through  the streets of the Old Town ending in a light show and firework display on Calton Hill. I’d realised that I’d never actually been before, so this year I made a last-minute decision to go along and see what all the fuss was about.20130103-114830.jpg

Being the hard-working individual that I am I was in the office in between Christmas and New Year [insert noises of pity here]. One of the upsides to this – aside from the cake – was that I got to see the spectacular sunset on the 31st from one of the highest points in the New Town. This was what we saw looking out over Charlotte Square.20130103-114823.jpg

And finally, New Year just wouldn’t be the same without a healthy does of fireworks. We quite like firing rockets and the like off historic monuments in this town, and New Year is no different. After Sunday night’s show on Calton Hill it was the turn of the Castle to bring in 2013 with a big bang.20130103-114838.jpg

All the best for the coming year, and here’s hoping it’s everything you wish it to be and more.

Cr

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Instagrammers Anonymous: Moving Closer To Christmas

And so this is Christmas – or so the song goes – and as if to confirm it there was a light scattering of snow on Edinburgh Castle this morning (I’m being uncharacteristically organised and writing this on Thursday). But at the same time, I’ve found myself questioning quite a few times where on earth December has gone. I’ve not even had any mulled wine yet this year – so that’s not even a potential excuse for loosing a few days/weeks.20121213-143400.jpg

I guess the biggest reason for the festive season’s disappearance is that I moved house last weekend. Yes, packed up lock, stock and most of the barrel and decanted across town. So whilst tidying, packing and unpacking have sapped most of my time, I can confirm that life is back on track and I can once again think only about all things festive!20121213-143332.jpg

Talking of unneccessary festiveness, another completely unnecessary trip to a well-know, tax-avoiding coffee company happened this week. But it has a snowman on the cup, so I’ve totally justified it to myself as being festive. In the branch across the road from the office, they have, however, learnt my name. And what size of drink I have. And what type of drink I have. And that I don’t want cream on top. Come January, I think it might be time for a change…20121213-143343.jpg

And finally this week, since it’s Christmas we’re going to have an extended edition of Instagrammers Anonymous!

It’s the office party today (Friday)! Yes, that awkward time of the year when everyone tries not to get too drunk, but inevitably someone has one too many and photocopies their backside. We’re trying to counter that this year by going out for a nice meal, but so as not to be too dull, we’re also having a Christmas jumper competition! Here’s my entry, and yes, the nose and scarf do stick out…20121213-143350.jpg

And if one extra wasn’t enough, here’s a second. Hamilton and Inches have my favourite festive display of the year. Not for all the jewelery on display and not for the little trains they have going round each window, but for the fact that in one of them there’s also a little piece of track on which a tram that can go nowhere is sitting. This subtle, festive dig at the city is by far my favourite thing I’ve seen this Christmas; good work H&I!Tram in Hamilton & Inches Christmas display, Edinburgh

I’m off to find my hangover tea now, in preparation for Saturday morning. Have a great weekend.

Cr

A Weekend of Frozen Adventures

I think we can all agree that winter is now well and truly with us. But, on the plus side, it’s now CHRISTMAS TIME!!!!!!!!!

I’ve ditched my “It’s not even sodding December yet!” hat and replaced it with one of festive excitement and (bad) singing.

This weekend I definitely got well and truly into the festive spirit, and then promptly got back out of it by attempting to do some Christmas shopping. However, with a mince pie in hand and the Michael Bublé Christmas album on in the background I’m getting back into the mood.

Frosty leaves on atree trunkI went on a bit of an adventure on Saturday up to Perthshire, to go visit my great uncle. I don’t get up nearly as often as I’d like, but when I get the chance, I don’t hesitate on breaking free of the city and head of to more rural lands; so with the dog in the backseat we headed up the A9 for a day out. This is where most of my festive spirit came through – it was beautifully crisp and clear day, and the hills were all dusted with frost and snow. With the Christmas music drowning out my tuneless singing it was hard not to wish it was the 25th already.dog looking at river

To give her Majesty a bit of a walk I stopped off at The Hermitage, near Dunkeld. This turned out to be both a lot of fun and a bit precarious as it was, for the most part, a large ice rink. Keira had a whale of a time, of course, and I only had one unscheduled sit down, so I would definitely call the walk a success. It also gave me plenty of opportunity to take photos of frosty things. I don’t know why I’m so fascinated by them, but each time I’m out and about I end up taking more photos of them.

Once I’d ditched the boots we headed off to the village of Blair Atholl for a few hours of coffee, cake and chat (he still thinks I’m slightly nuts for going to Moscow, but we put pretty much everything else in the world to rights and I learnt a lot about Burma during the second world war). By the time we got round to leaving it was pitch black, but we were just in time to make a quick visit to one of my favourite shops – The House of Bruar. Whilst I would love many of the jackets and boots they sell there my salary doesn’t quite cover it, so I made do with a visit to the foodhall. On the somewhat transparent excuse of ‘looking for Christmas presents’ I managed to come out with some roast duck pâté, claret-infused cheddar and some honey and whisky smoked salmon. Definitely the best shopping I’ve managed so far, and definintely not one I’m keen on sharing. Our drive home was pretty uneventful, but I can confirm that my singing abilities did not improve.

Front of Edinburgh CastleSunday was another bright and early start, but this time to make use of my free Historic Scotland weekend pass and go have an up-close look at Edinburgh Castle. I only discovered last year that Historic Scotland do this pass each year on a weekend around St Andrews day, but some friends and I decided to monopolise on their good will and take a look at the most famous landmark in Edinburgh. Very little has changed since I went last year, which I guess isn’t hugely surprising but it was a lovely morning to stare at every horizon. One thing I did observe though, is that people are rather dim and were definitely waiting for the One O’Clock Gun to be fired, despite the large sign that says that it isn’t fired on a Sunday.

After our trip to the Castle I went on an unsuccessful attempt to buy others presents and have established that I am not a fan of festive shoppers. I am also very disappointed in the selection of Christmas jumpers on offer! Even the Jeremy Kyle recruitment centre (aka Primark), which has many in its window, couldn’t provide me with something for the office party. And even more upsetting, Whittards had sold out of Mulled Wine tea! I did get an orange and cinnamon rooibos, but it was the icing on the cake of a spectacularly bad (even by my standards) shipping trip. Time for mulled wine and Amazon shopping, I think.

Click on one of the photos below to see the slide show.

Cr

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.

Cr

A Second Year of Contemplating

Picture the scene: It’s Monday evening after a long day in the office. I’m sitting on the sofa  slurping my way through a bowl of my roasted tomato and red chilli soup, mopping up as I go with a big hunk of crusty bread; the dog is, as ever, lying at my feet trying to soften my heart of ice with those big brown eyes. It was then that I had a thought. I dismissed it as a little ridiculous to begin with, but as I was finishing off my follow-up ‘course’ of a glass of lovely red wine left over from Sunday night’s dinner the thought came back to me and this time I couldn’t shake it – tomorrow is the 16th October. Contemplating the Clouds is two years old.

Yes, in the disorganised chaos of my daily life – it’s my preferred choice for organisation, it would seem – I almost forgot the blog’s birthday. This wasn’t the case last year – oh no – then I was so organised that I even went out and bought it a cup cake and a number 1 candle (have a look over here, if you don’t believe me). This year, the dog and I are sitting staring at the screen, wondering what to write (or in the dog’s case, why there isn’t cake involved this year).

The first year of Contemplating the Clouds was my first foray into the blogging world. It started with just photos, then was transformed by the addition of words. This time last year I thought that perhaps I was getting better at both the photos and the words; now I feel – I hope – that they have improved again – I know there are certainly fewer typos (and thanks to the friend that has no qualms about calling me out on them if they do appear; I do appreciate it, even if I don’t always sound grateful). But what of the theme and overall purpose of Contemplating? Well, that too has solidified a bit. This is a blog about a 20-something living, working, procrastinating, eat and drinking in Edinburgh. Oh, and about the adventures I run off on every so often.Edinburgh, Carlton Hill, Old Town, Lent, 40 Days of photos

I said last year I had no idea what the coming year would hold, and whilst it hasn’t been without its share of appearances from the drama-llama, I think it’s been a fairly settled one. At birthday numero uno I was three weeks into a temporary job that could end with virtually no notice in a company that had less than six months before it ceased trading  to say it was a little uncertain is a bit of an understatement, and the fact that I had no idea what ‘proper’ job I was ever going to get (if I would get one at all) was weighing pretty heavily on my mind. As it transpired I temped at the exporters for five months, and only left because I found gainful employment in the real – or perhaps that should be the surreal – world. I’ve now worked in internet marketing for the last seven months. It’s a massive jump from the world of academic biology that my university days in St Andrews were filled with, but I really enjoy it. Of course it’s tough at times and after seven months I feel I have only just begun scratching the surface of all there is to know – but that is part of the fun of it. Working mainly with the travel industry is also something I really enjoy – even if I do get pretty severe travel envy at least once a week – but perhaps what’s surprised me the most is how much I love writing. That may sound rather stupid from someone who writes an often fairly word-y blog, but when this started it was all about photos. My writing still has some way to come, I think, but we’ll see what the future holds on that front (although I wouldn’t hold your breath for a novel, quite yet).Defender of the Nation, Edinburgh Castle

The other thing I mentioned last year was that I’d like to go on holiday again. It was very much a passing remark, however, I am pretty sure it wouldn’t have made it in at all, had it not been something I really wanted to happen. And happen it did. With friends scattered across the country – and indeed the globe – I have been lucky to go away several times over the past twelve months, in fact travels have come to rather define the year. There was a little trip to London last Christmas time, followed Buxton, Peak District, Millers Dale, Wriggly Tin, quarry, hiking, viewpointvery quickly by another to St Andrews, the early new year was a bit dull, but the end of February saw the adventure of the Wriggly Tin (a long weekend to the Peak district, partying it up the likes of which Buxton has never seen before…). It took a while after that, but as the season that held the somewhat misleading title of ‘summer’ rolled around I put those accumulating holidays into use: first was my trip to Yorkshire for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and less that eight weeks later I was heading south again – this time bound for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, the Olympic Games in my capital city: London 2012. For anyone that was reading the blog around then, you’ll know that I had an absolutely fantastic trip, I didn’t shut up about the Olympics for weeks. But as the Jub-Olympic summer was drawing to a close I had other travels on my mind – my whirlwind trip to Moscow, Vienna and Bratislava. Let’s be honest, my summer’s travelling has dominated the last twelve months, it was utterly extraordinary, and something I doubt I will ever get the chance to repeat.My tickets for the Olympic Tennis - so excited!

Icing dribbling over the side of the cakeAnd that neatly brings me to the present day. Whilst I have no idea what the coming twelve months will hold I am pretty safe in suggesting that it will certainly hold more of three things that have filled the blog with lots and lots of images this year (away from all my gallivanting). They are, of course, dog walking (Keira isn’t going anywhere, after all), my attachment/addiction to a single app on my phone, Instagram, which has spawned the weekly round-up of Instagrammers Anonymous, and my other huge and overriding passion – food and drink. These three things have kept me busy over the last twelve months and I have no doubt that they will continue to flourish – who knows where they might take me.

To celebrate one year of Contemplating the Clouds I ran a week-long series called A Year In Photos, which involved me picking out my favourite 12 photos from the year (plus perhaps a bonus one on the side). Whilst the connections between the paired up photos were sometimes pretty tenuous, we all struggled through and seemed to quite enjoy them, so to advance on that it’s my self-promoting pleasure to follow this long-winded essay by seven days of (considerably shorter) posts – A Second Year in Photos.Monument to Peter the Great, the Moscow river and the cathedral of christ the saviour

All that’s left now is to say thank you. There would be very little point in me writing this blog if I didn’t think there were others out there reading it, so I’d like to extend a thank you to each and every one of your who reads the blog; much as it is an enormous cliché to say, it does mean a lot to me. It doesn’t matter whether you read every post, or just the odd one or two; if you’re the person in Edinburgh or Auckland that visits virtually every time I write a post, or you’re the person in Singapore, the Bahamas or Kazakstan who has visited just a handful of times, the very fact that you read it makes me happy.

And here is the perfect time to raise a glass of whatever is you happen to have handy (mine’ll be a G&T, please) and say here’s to a fantastic year of Contemplating the Clouds and procrastinating to our hearts’ content; and here’s to the future, whatever it may bring.

Cr