Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Good news for cat people in Edinburgh

The sort of temporary cat café in Edinburgh is set to become PERMANENT.

Edinburgh’s first cat cafe has announced it will be moving to a permanent home in the Grassmarket next month.

Maison de Moggy, which opened in a temporary location in Stockbridge back in January, will set up shop on West Port in a former bridal store – and its owner insists the new location will be bigger and better than ever.

The cafe, which is inspired by similar ventures in Japan, offers visitors the chance to enjoy a cup of tea while cuddling up to a host of different moggies including a bushy Maine Coon and a rare Norwegian Forest cat.

Via Edinburgh cat cafe gets permanent Grassmarket home – The Scotsman

Glasgow is still playing catch-up with this major advance in well-being.

Wake me when it opens…

No, wait – DON’T wake me, I’m a cat!

Sleeping Persian

Sleeping Persian

Prrrrrrrrrrrrrrr...

Prrrrrrrrrrrrrrr…

 

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April 8, 2015 Posted by | Civilian | , , , | Leave a comment

Little 7-week old kitten found on Edinburgh bus

I usually mention ‘lost cat’ stories on the off-chance that the owner or a friend might recognise the subject, and be reunited.

But that’s probably not so in this case, as the subject is a little kitten, said to be only 7-weeks old, and which turned up in a number 3 Lothian Bus headed to Longstone.

This one’s just included on the basis of massive amounts of cuteness.

Named ‘Ticket’, this one is possibly too young to have an owner, and somehow strayed onto the bus – although it’s reckoned that the platform is just too high for it too have jumped on by itself.

So it’s a bit of a mystery.

Ticket was taken to the Scottish SPCA‘s Edinburgh & Lothians rehoming centre.

Seven-week-old kitten found on number 3 Lothian Bus in Edinburgh | Edinburgh & East | News

Bus kitten Ticket

Bus kitten Ticket pic via Scottish SPCA

July 11, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Wonderful Edinburgh lady taxi driver

I have something of a soft spot for Edinburgh taxi drivers – the mush some of them have for brains, and their ability to get their colleagues a bad name.

I like to give them a wide berth and stay away from them, as the few I get close to are usually not very nice.

Probably the worst example I encountered was when trying to park just across from the Government offices in Spittal St/Castle Terrace, where the building has a pair of relief panels mounted above its doorways.

I had just pulled up and started to reverse into a single parking space, the rest of the traffic had been obliging and passed me with no problems, yet when a black cab came along the road – the driver chose to drive right up against the back of my car (as I was reversing, complete with white reversing lamps illuminated) and just sat there sounding his horn, giving the appearance that I had somehow forced him to stop and was about to back into him.

I’ve no idea what provoked this response from this particular driver of a black cab, but he just sat there with his hand on the horn button, and ignored me waving him past. As he was an inch from the back of my car, and had brought the traffic behind him to a halt, there was little I could do other than drive on… or get out and confront him. The latter was not going to happen, since he was clearly deranged. Maybe he was jealous of my car and just wanted to wind up the driver.

Since that day, I’ve never given an Edinburgh taxi driver a break. If they’re stuck in traffic or trying to get out of a jam, then they do it behind me, after I’ve passed.

That was a few years ago, but I see they’re no better, and the supposedly better female versions seems to suffer from the same attitude problem too.

Lady taxi driver blocks trams to have lunch

There’s been some media coverage of a stupid female driver of a black cab in Edinburgh who decided her meal was more important than the free flow of the rest of Edinburgh’s traffic – must have been related to the clown I was unfortunate enough to meet.

She parked on the tram route and headed into a fast food (so now we know how much she cares about her guts) outlet, and waited inside, blocking the route for about 10 minutes according to witnesses.

Amazingly, instead of running away embarrassed at her demonstration of brainlessness, she simply pulled a U-turn and parked on the opposite side of the road, blocking the route on that side of the street.

The media published the pics of this brain-dead behaviour with the registration number blanked out, but the pic is available online with the number in plain sight.

See Hungry cabbie brings Edinburgh’s tram system to a standstill | Deadline News

So why did they obscure it? It’s in the public domain, as seen below:

Taxi locks Edinburgh trams

Taxi blocks Edinburgh trams

Pic credit to Cabbie makes Big Mac-stake – Edinburgh’s Worst Drivers

April 5, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Edinburgh sword maker seeks apprentice

Mounted sword

Mounted sword

Another slightly odd or obscure job has surfaced in Scotland, namely that of apprentice to a sword maker.

But if you’re interested in taking up his offer, you might find yourself at the back of a long queue of hopefuls – far from failing to attract any interest, the opportunity has attracted numerous applicants from all around the World:

Edinburgh sword maker Paul MacDonald advertised the position a week ago, but 600 people from 24 different countries have applied.

He is one of just a handful of people left working in Scotland and wants to hand his knowledge on to the next generation.

His main business comes from people still using the swords for martial arts, such as fencing.

But he also sells to collectors and and (sic) film producers.

Via Paul MacDonald seeks apprentice swordsmith in Edinburgh | Edinburgh & East | News | STV

While a small example may take only a few weeks to complete, it seems that the more ornate and larger examples can take anything up to 6 months before they are ready to be handed over to their new owners.

February 8, 2014 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian | , , , | Leave a comment

Arctic Convoy exhibition opens at Edinburgh Castle

A reminder that the War Museum at Edinburgh Castle is hosting a special exhibition about the Arctic Convoys – admission is included with admission to the castle.

The date seems to have changed slightly compared to the advance news of the exhibition, when the opening date was given as May 24, 2013, and the date given now is today, May 29.

The museum’s web page does not indicate when the exhibition ends, but it was previously given as March 2014, so you don’t have to rush.

Then prime minister Winston Churchill admitted the mission to keep the supply lines of munitions, tanks, lorries, fuel and food open was “the worst journey in the world”, and they were dubbed the “suicide missions” by many of those who served on them, as the convoys had to run the gauntlet of submarine, air, and battleship attacks in harsh sub-zero conditions through the Arctic Ocean.

Arctic Convoys: 1941-45

Open daily 9:45–17:45

Material has been gathered from numerous sources, including private collections, loans from the Imperial War Museum, and museums in Russia. The exhibition will also include recordings of personal testimonies from surviving veterans of the convoys. It is often forgotten that many of those who took part in the convoys were not actually in the Royal Navy, but were simply merchant seamen or fisherman who had been called up for duty.

Those involved with efforts to establish a permanent museum to the Arctic Convoys, to be located at Loch Ewe, where many of the convoys formed and departed from, have also helped with contributions to the Edinburgh exhibition.

Jacky Brookes, manager of the Russian Arctic Convoys Museum Project in Loch Ewe, said: “We’re delighted the exhibition is happening and hope it will help raise the profile of getting a permanent museum”

We have had occasion to mention the museum project at Loch Ewe before:

Ross-shire museum call for Arctic Convoy veterans

HMS Scylla, a Dido-class cruiser of the Royal Navy, served with the Home Fleet on Arctic convoy duties, and is seen below while anchored on the Clyde:

HMS Scylla on the Clyde

HMS Scylla on the Clyde

Click on the image below to see a British Pathé short, shot in Scandinavian waters, and showing various shots of ships in a large convoy en route to Russia where:

Aboard the cruiser ‘Scylla’ Lieutenant-Commander McKean in a fur hat keeps a running commentary on the battle for the benefit of the ship’s company.

A column of black smoke rises into the sky after one of the ships is hit. The Scylla draws alongside the minesweeper ‘Harrier’. The two ships are lashed together while travelling at speed as the Scylla and takes on survivors of a torpedoed freighter.

The escort Commander, Rear Admiral Burnett, is put in breeches buoy and slung across to a destroyer so the Scylla can go ahead with survivors. C/U of Burnett on a ship, smiling and looking through binoculars.

May 29, 2013 Posted by | Maritime, military, Naval, Transport, World War II | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exhibition to give front-row seat on ‘worst journey in the world’ taken by Arctic convoys

Ship steaming at seaVeterans of the notorious Arctic Convoys from Scotland to the former Soviet Union are to be honoured with a major exhibition being held in Edinburgh, and beginning in 2013.

Edinburgh Castle’s War Museum will be staging the first major display in Scotland dedicated to the 3,000 men who lost their lives on the convoys from 1941 and 1945.

Rarely seen photographs, uniforms, diaries, letters and other personal possessions from veterans will be going on display for almost a year at the attraction.

Plans for the exhibition have been revealed just weeks after it was confirmed that veterans of the Arctic Convoys would finally get military medals following a lengthy campaign to see them recognised.

The supplies and ammunition they transported were vital to the war effort, as German forces had completely blockaded any access by land.

The operation was launched to help ensure vital supplies could get through to the ports of Murmansk and Archangel after Adolf Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, to ensure that the Nazis would remain occupied on the Eastern Front.

But they were dubbed the “suicide missions” by many of those who served on them, as the convoys had to run the gauntlet of submarine, air and battleship attacks in harsh sub-zero conditions through the Arctic Ocean.

Then prime minister Winston Churchill admitted the mission to keep the supply lines of munitions, tanks, lorries, fuel and food open was “the worst journey in the world”.

Of the 78 convoys from the UK and Iceland over that period, 19 departed from Loch Ewe, in Wester Ross, in the north-west Highlands, with others leaving from Oban and the Clyde.

About 20,000 Royal Navy and merchant navy sailors were involved in the missions to transport almost four million tonnes of supplies, with 16 warships and 85 merchant vessels being lost throughout the campaign.

via Exhibition gives front-row seat on ‘worst journey in the world’ taken by Arctic convoy – Scotland – Scotsman.com.

The exhibition, Arctic Convoys: 1941-45, is due to run from May 24, 2013 until March of 2014.

Material has been gathered from numerous sources, including private collections, loans from the Imperial War Museum, and museums in Russia. The exhibition will also include recordings of personal testimonies from surviving veterans of the convoys. It is often forgotten that many of those who took part in the convoys were not actually in the Royal Navy, but were simply merchant seamen or fisherman who had been called up for duty.

Those involved with efforts to establish a permanent museum to the Arctic Convoys, to be located in Loch Ewe, where many of the convoys formed and departed from, have also helped with contributions to the Edinburgh exhibition.

Jacky Brookes, manager of the Russian Arctic Convoys Museum Project in Loch Ewe, said: “We’re delighted the exhibition is happening and hope it will help raise the profile of getting a permanent museum”

We have had occasion to mention the museum project at Loch Ewe before:

Ross-shire museum call for Arctic Convoy veterans

January 8, 2013 Posted by | Maritime, military, Naval, Transport, World War II | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stirling Castle is UK favourite heritage location for 2012

I was mildly surprised, and pleased of course, to see that Stirling Castle featured in a news item which announced that it was voted the UK’s favourite heritage location – and I did look twice to make sure that the report said UK, and not just Scotland.

Stirling Castle voted the UK’s favourite heritage attraction

I think that’s a pretty good result given the competition from some other castles, some of which are in places that are considered to be more important, and some of which are considered to be more romantic or attractive. The other candidates should be fairly obvious, but I won’t name them as I don’t want to start an argument.

Although Stirling Castle used to be a fairly frequent destination for a family trip during a nice weekend, I haven’t actually been inside the castle for many years, and even my more recent visits have really only been as far as the gates and the walls – as a sort of renewal of acquaintance every now and then. In fact, my most recent eyeballs have been from the M9, where the view is more like that seen in the pic selected below. I even spent a frustrating period doing some work for Wang Computers who had a facility in the grounds below the castle – frustrating because the schedule meant I never had time to visit or even look at the castle once, even though I had to drive through some of the grounds, work never finished until everything was closed every day.

There was one amusing incident, while we decided to grab something to eat after being up at the castle.

There’s a pretty good little fish and chip shop in the main road below the castle, just on the way into Stirling itself, and it lies at the bottom of a large tenement block. We’d parked quite close, and were settling down in the car, and attacking another excellent fish supper, and had no idea what was going on a few feet away. Call it intuition, but I decided to move the car away from the shop  – just to the other side of the street – and this only took a moment as there is a roundabout at the end of the road. As we carried on eating, I realised I had been unsettled by a lot of people running around, and that was why I moved. As we watched, still unable to see anything wrong, the sound of sirens announced the arrival of a squad of fire engines – and they promptly took over the spot where we had been parked a few minutes earlier, and we realised that there was, and had been, a fire underway in the tenement, right above where we had just been. Although we saw some smoke, despite the number of firefighters that appeared, it seems to have been a non-event – probably because they dealt with it quickly.

Funny thing was, despite all the fire engines and firefighters, and the fact there was actually a fire in the building above, the chip shop just carried on business as normal, and the customers just kept coming and going as if there was nothing happening.

Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle © kim traynor

Edinburgh takes title as Europe’s leading destination in 2012

Never one to be upstaged, the capital followed a few days later with its own achievement, and was voted the leading destination in Europe, and beat competition from London, Paris, and Barcelona to take the title.

Edinburgh named Europe’s Leading Destination

I don’t want to sound like too much of a killjoy, but the overpriced pile of rubbish they dumped at Holyrood for £430 million, the Edinburgh crowds, and traffic problems with their trams, I think I’ll be sticking with Stirling as my preferred destination now, and for the foreseeable future.

I like Edinburgh just fine, but it has been ruined in recent years.

October 9, 2012 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

More than £7 million awarded in City Heritage Trust grants

Man with big money bagFunding of almost £8 million has been awarded for heritage projects in Scotland’s six cities. The  grants from Historic Scotland will be used to enhance conservation areas and maintain historic sites.

Edinburgh projects already mentioned include work on monuments in Greyfriars Kirkyard, repairs to an original Victorian shop front, and restoration of a 19th Century listed building. Dundee will see work take place within conservation areas, including work on ‘at risk’ buildings, together with further investment in the Riverside and Crown conservation areas of Inverness.

The grants are good news, especially at the moment when purse strings are being tightened, so something somewhere has to be suffering. Something that could happen under such circumstances is the assumption that big or well-known high-profile cities can look after themselves, and have some sort of magical pot of money that can be drawn on, unlike smaller conurbations. However, as one who lives in one of those ‘big, rich cities’, I know this is far from the case, having watched many worthy building fall into decay, ruin, and eventual vandalism and demolition.

Listing etc is all well and good, but apart from legal status and little protection, it does not come with any funds to maintain or restore properties.

Press release:

6 February 2012

Historic Scotland has announced that it will be offering £7.69m in City Heritage Trust grants over the next three years to Scotland’s six cities. The grants are designed to safeguard and enhance conservation areas, the historic environment and sense of place.

Glasgow will receive £2,550,000, Edinburgh will receive £2,145,000, and Aberdeen, Dundee, Inverness and Stirling will each receive £750,000.

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs said: “It is vital that we continue to improve the quality of our Scottish cities to make them better places to live, work and invest.

“Managing our historic environment creatively also contributes to sustainable economic growth by growing Scotland’s construction industry and increasing the availability and quality of traditional skills and materials. Using new skills and sustainable materials in the adaptation of existing buildings will also help support the historic environment’s transition to a low carbon economy.

“This investment builds on our Agenda for Cities and £7 million Cities Investment Fund, which has been launched to build the momentum to make sure our cities and their regions make the fullest possible contribution to sustained economic recovery – stimulating economic recovery and job creation.”

via Scotland’s six cities to benefit by £7.69 million in Historic Scotland grants.

There was further information appended to the release, which helps to explain some of the terms referred to in the release:

February 6, 2012 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Plan for major incident evacuation for Edinburgh central

Crowd looks upWhile the rest of the country just panics as normal in the run up to the Christmas and New Year season, it seems the good people of Edinburgh have been given a little something extra to worry about over the season of goodwill.

I don’t know about them, but if I lived there, and I was given this advice (especially just prior to a period when the city centre will busier than usual with Christmas shopper, sales, visitors etc), I would be putting two and two together and coming up with five – or “What am I not being told about”, the timing of this ‘good advice’ is just a little to neat.

Come to think of it… didn’t the media carry stories about an asteroid just missing us recently?

Residents living in Edinburgh city centre are being urged to make up a “grab bag” of essential items as part of a major incident evacuation plan.

The special bag should include medication, car and house keys, cash and bank cards, glasses or contact lenses and items for children.

People are also urged to store next-of-kin details in a mobile phone, wallet or purse under the note ICE.

ICE stands for ‘in case of emergency’ for people looking for details.

The city centre area is roughly bordered by Haymarket, Queen Street, Regent Terrace and the Grassmarket, and includes locations such as Calton Hill, Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Park.

The population in the area is estimated at 70,000 although this increases significantly during the summer.

All businesses in Edinburgh are also being urged to make sure they are geared up to evacuate parts of the capital in exceptional circumstances.

Evacuation process

They are being told to identify evacuation assembly points, make transport arrangements, give support for vulnerable groups and make arrangements for communications.

via BBC News – Major incident evacuation plan for Edinburgh centre.

November 23, 2011 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | Leave a comment

Bagpipe music ban for tartan shops in Edinburgh

Piper

While some might wonder at the wisdom of instituting a ban on bagpipe music issuing forth from the tartan tourist shops in Edinburgh, especially as the Edinburgh Festivals have just got underway, I think there will be even more who will be raising their eyes to the heavens and saying “Thank you”.

As usual, the problem is nothing to do with the reasonable shops that have their wares playing away in the background of their establishments, so that patrons can audition what is on offer, but those who suffer from the “MORE IS BETTER” affliction, and find the need to hang loudspeakers in their doorways or on their shops fronts, connected to stereo system blasting the sound of bagpipes into the street, each trying to be louder than the folk next door. If they think it attracts customers, then in my case at least they are sadly mistaken, as the resulting cacophony just makes me run past the lot as quickly as possible. Nor would I part with even a penny to such a shop.

If memory serves me at all, I am sure this issue has been raised in the past, as the noise became unbearable

I’m surprised no-one has come to blows over this, since the skirl of the pipes may be a pleasant novelty when heard for a short time at reasonable volume, but becomes akin to the sound of cats on heat when overdone for hours on end, especially if you cannot get away from it. I can only assume the owners of offending establishments have earplugs in so they can ignore it for days on end.

If they’re that keen on having loud pipes, they should employ a live piper to play at their door.

Tourist shops in Edinburgh have been banned from playing loud bagpipe music out into the streets.

Environmental officers are patrolling the capital’s streets to make sure traders do not break new rules which came into force on Monday.

It follows complaints about the volume of bagpipe music played by some retailers.

Edinburgh City council has also received complaints of shops’ tartan goods blocking pavements.

It follows a meeting between Royal Mile traders and the council to agree on a “reasonable approach” to tackle the problems.

An Edinburgh City Council spokesman said: “While most shops do operate responsibly, there remain specific examples where this is not the case.”

via BBC News – Bagpipe music ban for tartan shops in Edinburgh.

August 7, 2011 Posted by | Civilian | , , , | 2 Comments

Darien documents go on display in NLS Edinburgh

It’s a funny thing.

A few years ago, I came across a short article in a magazine. The subject was the Darien Scheme, and it seemed to be something that was so fundamental to the Union of Scotland and England, I couldn’t understand why I had never come across it before, or had any recollection of ever being told about it at school – but in those days, I wasn’t any sort of historian, and that was a class I could never wait to get out of – but I know I never heard a word about Darien there.

A Glasgow University article on The Darien Scheme concluded:

The consequences of the failure of the Darien Scheme were wide ranging. From hastening the Act of Union to the formation of the Royal Bank of Scotland, there are few events in Scottish history whose impact can be so readily traced to the present. In all respects the Spencer Collection contributes to our intellectual understanding of a tumultuous period in Scots and indeed British history.

Strangely, ever since I wrote about Darien in April 2010, the number of items appearing online appears to have jumped.

Could there be a connection?

We’ll never know, but…

Apparently for the first time, a number of rare documents that tell the story of the Darien project and its demise are being placed on display at the National Library of Scotland (NLS) in Edinburgh. Documents featured belong to both the Royal Bank of Scotland and the library.

The exhibition runs until August 2011.

National Library of Scotland

The Darien Scheme

In summary, the scheme was inspired by banker William Paterson, and saw Scotland invest a large proportion of its wealth in setting up a colony in Central America in 1698. The plan had been to set up a trading colony in Darien (now known as Panama) in 1698. It was a disaster. Thousands died during two attempts, and Scotland was plunged into economic crisis. The failure of the scheme led to the Act of Union in 1707, and that still seems to be a problem today.

Many, more detailed and deeply analysed, accounts of the scheme can be found online.

July 3, 2011 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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