Archives for posts with tag: scotland

Postcards I have added to my collection over the past six months.

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A miniature print of Messiah (1919) by Ernst Neuschul, an Austrian born painter associated with the New Objectivity movement. I purchased this from the New Walk Museum in Leicester, which holds many German Expressionist works – and those of a similar ilk – which I will write about in the near future. You cannot help but be pulled into this image, which is so unflinching and unapologetic. The figure reminds me of the singer Richard Hell.

 

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This is from a box of postcards of Penguin Classic covers, which I was able to purchase singly from Oxfam Books and Music. The novel is The Drowned World by JG Ballard. Ballard’s novels are mainly dystopian in style, his most famous works being Crash and Empire of the Sun. I haven’t read The Drowned World (yet), although I have read others of his, but the submerged image of the Chrysler building, combined with the strong colours, really spoke to me.

 

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I received this in the mail around a month ago. How exciting it was to receive. My friend was on holiday in Scotland and sent me this postcard of John Byrne’s Jock and the Tiger Cat (1968). It is from the Perth Museum and Art Gallery, where the painting is currently held. Byrne is a Scottish playwright and artist, probably most known for the television series Tutti Frutti starring Robbie Coltrane and Emma Thompson.

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The funfair is something I’ve spoken about a few times on this blog, so adding this image to my collection isn’t a great surprise. I like that the shot is slightly out of focus, connoting movement, that the top of the image almost looks tarnished, and the soft natural haze mingling with the neon lights. It reminds me of Coney Island.

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Whilst on a recent trip to Dublin, I stopped at the National Gallery of Ireland for a look at their current exhibition, Lines of Vision, curated to celebrate 150 years of the gallery. I purchased this postcard of a painting I was drawn to in the collection entitled Moonlight (1926) by Paul Henry. Henry was born in Belfast and was particularly fond of the West coast of Ireland, where he spent a great deal of time painting landscapes. I liked the simplicity of the work, and on a personal note it reminded me of sailing to Norway last year.

A short time ago whilst visiting my hometown museum, I spied this photograph in a glass display box in an unassuming location. The image stopped me in my tracks. The black and white shot was of a long since departed cinema at the end of an alley called The Plaza. I was intrinsically drawn to the photograph, which was so noirish with its sleazy neon light. I imagined a sleuth in a sharp suit with a briefcase lurking in the shadows, following a dame for a murky suitor. Then I remembered that these people don’t exist in Scotland, at least not in a sharp suit.

plaza

I decided to conduct some research into this long-forgotten cinema, which brought up some fond and nostalgic memories of cinema-going as a youngster.

The Plaza was situated in the centre of the Ayrshire town Kilmarnock. It was built in 1939 and sadly demolished in 1971, making way for the shop Marks and Spencer. The film advertised on the sign, The Art of Love, is a 1965 picture directed by Norman Jewison, starring Dick Van Dyke and James Garner.

My own love affair with the cinema, or ‘the pictures’ as we call it in Scotland, started young. Our local film theatre – latterly named ABC – was a fairly grotty, poorly-lit place decked out in gold and crimson paint, like some sort of cheap bordello. There was only one ticket desk inside and so a huge line would snake down the street, despite the mere three screens.

It was a place where bubblegum and broken popcorn were hermetically sealed to your shoes whilst giant cartoon characters became your heroes. I loved it.

It had these enormous red velvet drapes, and when they parted and the lights fell low, I’d haul out my secret stash of sweets and wait for the magic to begin. Back in the day there was an intermission, when the curtain would close and a little old lady came out with a tray full of ice creams to peddle.

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Because we weren’t well-off, I didn’t get to the visit the cinema as much as I would have liked, which I suppose made the experience all the richer. During childhood my brother and I existed on a video diet of Disney classics, early Tim Burton (Beetlejuice was our absolute favourite) and Arnold Schwarzenegger films (The Running Man is still a guilty pleasure). We watched these at my grandmother’s house as we didn’t have a video recorder. We did acquire a second-hand model at one point but it didn’t seem to like my brother’s cash gift. Anyway, I digress…

I was in my early teens when a new multiplex opened. This hit the ABC hard and they reduced their prices to just £1 per film. Even though the new cinema was charging triple the price, the allure of the shiny silver soulless facade and the nine screens (you can only watch one at once you know) was too much of a pull and the ABC closed forever. That was over a decade ago and it still stands empty.

There have been numerous stories about what’s to become of the ABC – which is B-listed – including a hotel (crazy considering it’s hardly a tourist trap), a bingo hall (isn’t there enough already?) and a kids’ theatre company, which is definitely the best bet if they can find the funding.

The floor of the multiplex is still littered with popcorn, but the theatre of cinema in the town evaporated the day those big red velvet drapes came down for the last time, all those years ago.

All pictures from scottishcinemas.org.uk

The county of Ayrshire, birthplace of Robert Burns, Hendrick’s Gin and little old me. The best thing about my county is the great outdoors, particularly when the sun is shining, which it certainly was at the weekend (28°C, unheard of in Scotland). Ayrshire is home to rolling hills, lush green pastures and a plethora of beaches.

On the first day of my trip home I visited Dunure and Croy Beach in South Ayrshire, which was glorious after months in landlocked Berkshire. I try to avoid the busier beaches, such as Troon and Ayr, and head up the coast for more secluded spots.

The views here are incredible: rugged coastline, vast sparkling ocean, and the hazy outline of the uninhabited island of Ailsa Craig in the distance, ten miles out to sea. The few fluffy clouds gave interest to the vivid blue sky and white cabbage butterflies and wild flowers were in abundance.

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If you ever visit this area be sure to take a picnic as you’ll want to spend some time here. There is also a farm park for children close by called Heads of Ayr, and a few caravan parks for longer visits. Dunure is also very close to Turnberry, the famous hotel and golf resort, which has held many Open tournaments.

This is my third collection in paper form (the other two being postcards and art cards). I have many ticket stubs, from concerts and cinema trips to transport from unforgettable holidays. Here I share a few of my memories caught inside little pieces of paper, reminiscences trapped in ink.

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Coraline Onboard the Screen Machine (Spean Bridge, Scotland, July 2009)

A few years ago during summer, we decided to drive around the north of Scotland. We visited Mull, Skye, Oban and Fort William, where we stayed in a chalet-type room in a village called Spean Bridge. I was intrigued by a lorry parked up close to our lodgings, with the Royal Bank of Scotland logo stamped on the side, next to the words ‘Screen Machine’. I had stumbled across a service I had never heard of before: a ‘bus’ that travels to the remote areas of Scotland, bringing the cinema directly to people in remote communities. What a great idea I thought, noting that there was a screening of Coraline scheduled for a few hours time. Inside, the Machine was just like an ordinary cinema – except better maintained – but with a single aisle and plush red velvet chairs. I thoroughly enjoyed the film and the whole experience, and it was a great memory from a very enjoyable vacation.

http://www.screenmachine.co.uk

 

Deutsche Kinemathek Museum Fur Film Und Fernsehen (Berlin, April 2010)

As a huge fan of German cinema, from Expressionist classics to the Turkish-German films of Fatih Akin, the German Film and Television Museum was at the top of my Berlin schedule. To see original film posters for Fritz Lang landmarks like Metropolis and set models of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari – as well as stepping into Marlene Dietrich’s wardrobe – was incredible.

This museum isn’t for everyone but was perfect for me. One of my favourite museums in one of my favourite cities.

http://www.deutsche-kinemathek.de/en

 

Boston Bruins vs New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center (NJ, April 2013)

This was my first NHL game, and my first time watching a hockey game featuring world class players. I grew up in ice rinks as I was a figure skater and was always a fan of hockey. I don’t follow a particular US or Canadian team but my boyfriend is a huge Bruins fan. When we visited New York last year we looked for games at both Madison Square Garden (home to the New York Rangers) and the Nassau Coliseum (home to the Islanders) but could find no Boston games. When we realised that the Devils play in Newark our luck was in. With less than 5000 attendees for games in the UK, being surrounded by 17,000 hockey fans in New Jersey was a bit of an eye opener, and a fantastic experience all round.

 

Zoltar Speaks (Brooklyn, NY, April 2013)

During the same trip to New York we visited Coney Island in Brooklyn. We took a ride on the Wonder Wheel, ate Nathan’s hot dogs and drank fresh lemonade on the promenade. After a walk on the beach, we played video games in the arcade, where we had our fortunes printed from the Zoltar machine, just like Tom Hanks in Big. (We also saw the famous floor piano in toy store FAO Schwarz).

The history of Coney Island fascinates me, especially as a fan of vintage fairgrounds, and its use in modern cinema as diverse as The Warriors and Requiem for a Dream further fuelled my desire to go. Coney Island was a very memorable part of my visit to New York, which was my first trip to the Big Apple.

Traditionally on Burns Night, haggis, neeps (swede/turnip, let’s not get into the difference here, just eat one of these) and tatties (potatoes) are served, washed down with whisky, or Irn Bru if you’re ‘aff the drink’. The meal is usually finished with oatcakes and cheese.

Despite the jokes about deep fried Mars bars, I have never tried one, nor have I ever seen one. They’re basically an urban myth, but I believe some fish and chip shops started to produce them for the novelty factor.

Scottish foods aren’t known for their health benefits (chips/fries are jokingly referred to as a Glasgow salad), but they’re certainly unique – and often very tasty.

Savoury

Lorne sausage (square/sliced sausage)
Unfamiliar to any shop south of Berwick, Lorne sausage is a peculiar thing. It is made of pork and is part of the full Scottish breakfast, but is also enjoyed in a roll or a sandwich at the start of the day. It looks wholly unappetising but tastes pretty good – like a normal sausage but with a hint of spice.
Square-Lorne-sausage

Stornoway black pudding
Stornoway (the capital of the Isle of Lewis) is renowned for its black pudding, and has PGI status. It is said to be one of the finest in the world due to the addition of Scottish oatmeal. Black pudding is essentially congealed animal blood but you need to look past the basic description. It’s very rich, quite spicy and partners excellently with apple sauce. If you like haggis, you’ll probably like black pudding.
stornoway_black_pudding

Cullen skink
Cullen skink is a thick fish soup with an odd name. Cullen is a fishing town in the Moray Firth, but the origins of the word ‘skink’ are a bit more conflicting. Cullen skink consists of haddock, onion, milk/cream and potatoes, and is a popular starter in Scottish restaurants.
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Sweet

Clootie dumpling
A very traditional ‘cake’ closely resembling a Christmas pudding. It’s a rich dish, chock-full of dried fruit and spices. It is steamed in a piece of rag or ‘cloot’, hence the name.
clootie

Cranachan
Cranachan is a grown-up dessert comprising Scot’s oats, whisky, fresh raspberries, honey and whipped cream. It’s a simple dish but with a lot of flavour. Sort of the Scottish equivalent to the Eton Mess.
cranachan

Macaroon bars
Not to be confused with the frou-frou French fancies, Macaroon bars consist of a thick brick of fondant (made using potato), covered in chocolate and sprinkled with coconut. They were first manufactured in 1931 by Lees and are extremely sweet yet delicious.
macaroon

Tablet
A staple in any Scottish guiser’s Halloween haul, tablet is similar tasting to fudge but with an entirely different texture. It is usually made in either hard or soft form – the soft being melty, sugary, tooth-coating goodness. The hard type starts with a tough bite but the finale is the same. Tablet is thought to date back to the 18th century.
tablet

Edinburgh rock
Entirely dissimilar to the standard British seaside rock. Edinburgh rock is typically served as small pastel-coloured chunks, is crumbly and soft, and is fruit-flavoured. Ubiquitous on the capital’s Royal Mile and on Prince’s Street.
Edinburgh_Rock

NB Scotland is the only country in the world where Coca Cola is not the top selling soft drink. Irn Bru holds that fizzy crown.

The Lion Rampant

The Lion Rampant

With Burns Day coming up (25th January), I thought it was a good time to remind people of the inimitable Scots tongue. Since I moved to England six months ago, I don’t get to say these words very often for fear of strange looks. Here are some of my favourite Scottish words and their meanings.

Fankle – meaning tangled eg ‘my knitting is all in a fankle’

Guddle – meaning jumble or muddle eg ‘I have gotten myself in a guddle’

Jiggered – meaning extremely tired or weary eg ‘I’m jiggered after that workout’

Puggled – same meaning as above but equally fun to say

Rumgumption – meaning common sense eg ‘he hadn’t the rumgumption to understand the question’

Laldie (pronounced laldeh) – meaning to give it one’s all eg ‘give it laldie on that dance floor/football pitch/anywhere else you want to impress’

Loupin/Lowpin (lou/low pronounced as in allow) – meaning really painful or sore eg ‘my leg is loupin’

Peely-wally (pronounced peely-wahly)- meaning very pale or pasty eg ‘you’re looking a bit peely-wally today’

Footery – meaning fiddly or awkward eg ‘undoing this necklace catch is too footery’

Nineteen-canteen – meaning a long long time ago eg ‘I haven’t seen you since nineteen-canteen’