photo challenge

Clandestine- Cloak and dagger in Holyrood Palace


Few places are more redolent of Scottish history than Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, the principal residence of the kings and queens of Scotland since the 16th century.  On a mist-shrouded day I approach the Royal Arms of Scotland over the gateway.  I know that the cloisters within are as far as my camera can take me, yet somehow I don’t mind.

Audio clasped to my ear, I gaze around me.  Aged tapestries clothe wood-paneled walls, the furniture worn but sumptuous.  Not hard at all to picture Bonnie Prince Charlie in this setting.  The ancient floors creak and give under modern shoes.  In the endless Great Gallery I sink onto a stool to absorb the weight of majestic paintings, commissioned by Charles II.

Through the King’s Ante-Chamber, his Bedchamber and Closet I have crept reverently, but the spell of this house is all bound up in the unfortunate Mary Queen of Scots.  Arch rival to Elizabeth I, her life was surrounded by intrigue and plots.  You can almost feel the anguish as you mount the stairs to her chambers at the top of the palace.  Held prisoner here, her embroidery box sits poignantly on a table, with the bible she used for her devotions.  Mary occupied these rooms from 1561 to 1567, and it was here that she witnessed the brutal murder of her secretary, David Rizzio. Married to Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, at Holyrood in 1565, the following year Darnley was among those wielding a knife when Rizzio was stabbed 56 times.  ‘Cloak and dagger, furtive, covert, stealthy, concealed’- all are contained in the definition of Clandestine.


The life of the Palace began much earlier, in 1128, when an Augustinian abbey was founded at the order of King David I of Scotland. The Holy Rood, or Black Rood, was a relic of the True Cross of Christ which had belonged to David’s mother, Queen Margaret.  The abbey guesthouse was used for royal visits, until construction of a palace began in 1501.  Whereas the palace has grown and endured over time, the Abbey was reduced to a ruin in 1544, when Holyrood was looted and burned.  Full restoration was never undertaken but the ruins are hauntingly beautiful.

I gazed out, through the grills, to the park where a captive Mary once practised her archery.  Today the monarch spends one week a year in residence at Holyrood Palace. How times have changed!  You can view some of the history here.

I have made only a very tenuous link to today’s Thursday’s Special.   As I explained to Paula, Traces of the Past might make a better home.  But I’m the impatient type and can’t wait until 6th October for the next edition.

Have a look at what Paula makes of Clandestine.


Before and after


I love this shot.  It was a balmy day earlier this month, on the beach at Seaton Carew.  Who’s in charge- man or dog?  I’m not entirely sure that I wanted to convert it to black and white.  But then, I usually feel like that about photos.  What do you think?


I don’t usually do the Black and White Sunday challenge, but Paula made this one so easy, even I could join in.   Backwards, of course.

I’m posting this just before I disappear off to Edinburgh for a day or two, so apologies if I’m slow with responses.  I’ll be back on Saturday.

Of the night


I’m not known for my one shot posts, and certainly not for my night photography.  Browsing my photo files last night, I came across a rather wonderful memory.  Lumiere at Durham last November.  Looking at it, I could feel the atmosphere again as the scenes washed across the face of Durham Cathedral.  The crowd stood hushed throughout a powerful sound and light performance.

This week Paula is demanding something Nocturnal, and I’ve rarely seen a more beautiful photo of Belem.  By definition, nocturnal means ‘active at night’.  This is a rare shot I took with my phone because there was insufficient light for the camera.  Go over to Paula’s place and see what makes Thursday’s Special.  You’ll find a beautiful nocturnal creature if you do.

Where would you rather be?





Pounding in to shore,

Wind whipping, shaping the waves.

Power, meet beauty!


Paula must have known that she was tempting me with this week’s theme.  The weather played its part beautifully.  I know that there are finer seascapes, but this one is mine- my north east of England coast.

Now, please go and be spellbound at Thursday’s Special.

Forbidding skies


It’s strange how little you know of your own area sometimes, isn’t it?  Countless times I’ve ridden the bus along Seal Sands Road, with my nose in a book, blotting out the ugliness.  It’s a highly industrialised area and holds little appeal, apart from the seals that inhabit Greatham Creek.

I was unaware of the Brine Fields, where saturated salt was once extracted and processed by the local Cerebos company.  Nowadays the resulting salt caverns are used for storage of liquid gas for the process industry.   A forbidding sight, complete with warning notices.


If you look very closely you might spot a grey head bobbing along in the water.  The seal is apparently oblivious to the stormy skies and forbidding landscape.  For humans those skies mean it’s time to get a move on home.  Always assuming they have a home to go to, of course.


Paula is asking for interpretations of Forbidding on Thursday’s Special this week.  This is mine.   If you come along on my walk next Monday I’ll tell you a little more about the area, and we’ll go and find those seals.  Bit of a change from butterflies, isn’t it?

A Tall Story


‘Tall’ is a relative, isn’t it?  Seen from the cliff tops in Saltburn, this offshore wind farm looks small and inoffensive.  Quite pretty, in fact, as the sunlight catches the blades.  Let’s have a walk along the sea front at Redcar, to take a closer look.


I used to hate being tall and gawky when I was at school.  Nor did I ever achieve tall and elegant in later life.  But I’ve always been tall.

So I do have a certain sympathy with Redcar’s Vertical Pier.  It’s far from elegant, but it’s tall and…. interesting, would you say?



If you were wondering what I did with the rest of my Monday, after my walk Through the Valley at Saltburn, the answer’s here.  I’ve long intended to climb the Vertical Pier at Redcar.  It only required a short detour, and you know how I like a view.

I’m hoping that Paula will enjoy it too.  She likes a little something different for her Thursday’s Special.  This week’s subject is Tall.

Winter Garden ‘Snowku’


Is there any such word?

Cold and shivery, if so!

Tiny ice crystals


Snow was fleeting in my part of the world, so I had to be quick with the camera.  While Jude was loitering inside the glasshouse I was out in the fingerless gloves.  Who’s the fool, I ask myself.  Certainly not Jude!

When I was folder-ing these away, I came across some evidence that our hellebores really don’t seem to mind snow.  Nor the rhododendrons, come to that.  But then, don’t they come from the Himalayas?


That’s quite enough snowku for this month!  I just sneaked a look at next month’s Garden Photography Challenge.  ‘Monochrome’… over to you!

Lazy Poet’s Winter Garden

Hellebore 2

Hellebore, my friend,

Tilting up your Winter smile.

Stay with me, till Spring?


Use your imagination, said Jude.  I really didn’t need to.  They were just waiting for me to notice them, so I could enter the  Winter Garden challenge this week.  My Lazy Poet friend Gilly found some too.  We now have a chorus of hellebore!



Capturing fading light seems to have been one of my preoccupations on my recent trip to the Algarve.  I always have difficulty keeping these things to myself, so I was happy when Paula requested Backlit images on Thursday’s Special.

Fronds of palm, backlit

Shadows creeping silently

Whispering of night


A strong subject in the foreground is what’s required, so I’ve included the one above, which I don’t like so much, and a couple of fishermen, taken much earlier in the day.  I rather like the fishermen.  They were much too busy to notice me.


As always, Paula does it with style and a very special Thursday photo.  My lovely friend Gilly is always here on a Thursday, too- her Lazy Poet’s haiku is simply too good to miss.

I really shouldn’t be loitering here because I’ve still much to do. See you!



I suppose this could be a Monday walk, but I really just wanted to share my experience of Glenridding with you, before it fades like the leaves.  It’s many a long year since I spent a night in the Lake District, and I wanted to savour every moment.

If you walked with me this week you’ll know that after my visit to Aira Force the rain hit hard, and I was ‘forced’ to eat cream scones and bide my time.  I should maybe apologise if you were sitting in the Orangery.  Once the scones had disappeared I took to pacing up and down, waiting, not so patiently.  Lake Ullswater needed filling and was supremely disinterested in my desire to be out exploring, so I had to contain myself until morning. Very early morning, so it was really no surprise that I had Glenridding all to myself.

I was staying in a guest house immediately across the road from the lake

I was staying in a guest house immediately across the road from the lake

You may have observed that it was rather misty!

You may have observed that it was rather misty!

But I was optimistic!

But I was optimistic!

And I could see the boats moored at the landing stage, beyond the trees.  Enough incentive to venture further.

I crossed the stream

I crossed the stream

Ad looked back at the sleepy village

And looked back at the sleepy village

And there was the lake! Not much mountain though...

And there was the lake! Not much mountain to see though…

There's the steamer

But there’s the steamer

And two wonderfully curious swans

And two wonderfully curious swans

I imagined it to be brightening a little, and turned from the water’s edge to head back into the village.  I tucked my camera into the comfort of my pocket.  Mistake!  At just that moment the swans decided I was a tad boring and, with a graceful flurry of wing, lifted off from the lake’s surface and glided away to the distant shore.  I gazed after them, bereft!

Back to the village, which was just waking up

Back to the village, which was just waking up

I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere with so many options for walking.  I saw at least 4 signs pointing out different routes, including one for Helvellyn.  Curiosity prevailed and I had to follow the latter a little way, finding a couple of pretty little cafes and a fine letterbox as I did.

I continued a little way along the trail, upsetting a little black dog in the privacy of his morning walk.  My shoes were totally inadequate for the task, and breakfast was calling.  Enough adventure for an early morning.  The rain began in earnest soon after I reached the guest house.

Back via the village 'green'

Back via the village ‘green’

I never did manage that steamer ride to Howtown and the walk back to Glenridding.  I guess that means I’ll have to go back another day.  Let’s look on the bright side- I did find a couple of Autumn benches for Jude.