Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Spring snow

You have to love Scottish weather (and Canadian, from other tales I’ve been told recently), it never disappoints, unless you’re a Sun-worshipper. In that case, you really would be better off somewhere else.

March 21 is by no means ‘late’ for snow here, the latest date I can recall for sure is April 1 (seriously), but I’m sure that’s not the latest.

This morning’s view was no great surprise as I’d heard the noise that snow makes against the window during the night, and the temp had fallen from 10° C to 1° C and was still falling, but I was surprised by just how much was lying, given the previous ‘warm’ days.

I grabbed a quick pic with a couple of shaped trees that almost looked like Christmas trees with the snow lying on them, still snowing too.

Almost hard to believe it was only a couple of days ago I was enjoying a walk in the same place, having left off my winter protection yet still finding I was too warm and breaking sweat, and wondering how on earth the folk who were STILL wrapped up in heavy jackets, scarves, boots, gloves, and woolly hats were able to stand the heat, or if they were ‘cold-blooded’.

I find them as puzzling as the macho-males I also see in this weather, clad only in t-shirt, shorts, and trainers – apparently more interested in showing off their horrible hairy leg tattoos than staying warm. Clearly Scottish males wanting to get their money’s worth!

March 21 snow

March 21 snow


The temperature’s been unable to creep past 7° C today, but the snow didn’t last for more than a few hours.

All gone, and although it doesn’t show up in the second pic, there is actually a watery Sun shining on this later view:

March 21 no snow

March 21 no snow

March 21, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , | Leave a comment


Disappointment for those fun people who like to run around holding their heads and crying that the weatherfolk were “WRONG AGAIN!” just because a particular forecast did not apply to their street.

First snow (local: snaw) we’ve seen on the ground here this year (or winter).

We’ve had a little frost, and I’ve even been out running in -3°C, but I think I’ll give sliding around in this slush a miss.

As can be seen from this shot taken while passing some road works this morning, this fall was light, and the ground is far from cold enough to preserve the white stuff for long.

First snow 2017

First snow 2017

January 12, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , | Leave a comment

Glasgow – from the eye in the sky (thanks to a windy day)

I saw a storm warning for Aberdeen, paired with a suggestion that the rest of the country was going to see an end to the rather nice weather being enjoyed for October. Thursday did look a bit blustery in the morning, but not too bad, and I carried on and headed out for a longish walk into Glasgow.

This turned out to be a mistake.

Two hours into this walk I had barely made an hour’s normal progress, and had gone into The Forge for a respite from the wind (no rain, just wind). The wind had just got wilder and wilder after I left home, and after two hours I was actually feeling ill from battling against it, and even after diving into The Forge for a while, when I left it was even worse, and I was having to lean into it just to make progress. Five minutes after restarting my walk, I decided it was madness to carry on, as it would have taken almost two more hours to reach Glasgow, as it was not letting up. I’ve been out for a long walk on a windy day… but this was getting ridiculous, and definitely no longer fun.

Being a Thursday, the Forge Market was open, so a diversion there would mean the walk was not a complete loss.

There’s a little stall there with second-hand books, which sometimes has local books, and this chance visit turned out to be a good one.

I picked up the book shown below, ‘Glasgow – from the eye in the sky‘, which is not one of the best (I’m biased here, as I hate Radio Clyde), but contains some great aerial images of the city.

It’s timing is (was) excellent, being published in 1988 means it has images from a period of change, and shows parts of the city no longer existing today, others which were new at the time (27 years ago at the time of writing this post), and that year was the year of the Glasgow Garden Festival.

The ‘eye in the sky’ refers to a helicopter that flew over Glasgow every morning and reported on the state of traffic around the city for the radio.

The book tries to give a bigger picture of the city by having not only the aerial shots, but pics taken on the ground, together with commentary describing what was happening, and tries hard to sing the city’s praises, as it transformed from being ‘No Mean City‘ to ‘Glasgow Smiles Better‘.

My interest, however, is only of the record of the time, not the commentary or sales pitch it tries to make.

The aerial pics are the gems in its content, and pleasingly large, covering double page spreads with no borders.

While it’s true that we can have Google Earth and its imitators provide similar aerial imagery online (and archived versions too), and it is great that it can be panned and zoomed, these shots are an alternative, oblique view from the helicopter. Most of the online aerial images tend to be from directly overhead, which means they generally miss the oblique detail. As you can see from the cover shot, this means you not only get to see the roofs of the many building, but also their sides.

So, while the wind ruined my day in one sense, it did mean I spotted a gem I’d probably have missed otherwise.

Glasgow - from the eye in the sky

Glasgow – from the eye in the sky

October 22, 2015 Posted by | Civilian | , , , | Leave a comment

It’s a cat

Today was the first day we’ve had around here that could actually be referred to as ‘warm’.

There was something similar exactly 4 weeks ago, and I even managed to drag out the mower and get an early trim of the grass around the back (which grows some 3-4 times faster than the front), but there’s not been a completely dry day, or one that was not blowing a gale, since then. To be accurate, there was a semi-gale gusting today, but it was not made up of near-freezing wind, so I’m not letting it negate what was an otherwise decent day.

Another factor was the appearance of cat relaxing out of doors.

Scottish cats are not stupid, and can tell what the weather is going to be like in the coming hours, much better than a human or weather forecaster, so when I see one lying around in an exposed position out of doors, well, I know the weather’s getting better.

I also learned a few more photography lessons as well…

I haven’t been able to get out and take any pics recently, and knew my battery (a special, because it’s in a dSLR) was low, but was carrying a replacement.

Not smart enough – when the battery in the camera died while I was using it, I swapped it for the spare… FAIL… although charged a while ago, it was as flat as the one in the camera.

In future, if out of action for a considerable, never mind the charge level – just charge the things before use.

Second lesson was with regard to autofocus selection – this I had recently switched to allow the camera to select the zones used, because the newest camera has so many zones, and I found it was doing a better/faster job than my semi-manual selection.

But while photographing this cat, I noticed the active zones were being picked from the wrong places – but I hadn’t used manually selected zones for so long I couldn’t remember where the menu was (pro-dSLR cost £5,000 and have lots of knobs for good reasons.) It’s also hard to do this quickly when carrying bags too – but that couldn’t be avoided, since it was the reason I was out.

So it pays to remind yourself of the location of important setting when they are buried in menus – and that batteries can go died while you are fumbling.

Still, the pic’s not all that bad, and the cat’s rather nice too (never seen this one before):

Long hair carpet cat

Cat on a bin marks spring’s real start


April 15, 2014 Posted by | photography | , , | Leave a comment

A very wet and very soggy New Year’s Day

Unlike recent past years, January 1, 2014, was dull and, to begin with at least, dry inasmuch as it was not raining. Things were still soggy though.

This lulled me into a fall sense of security, and I headed off towards Daldowie Crematorium for what has become something of a habit on this day, for obvious reasons.

On the way there, it was clear that the road had earlier been flooded. Part of it was coned off, and when I got closer, although the damage didn’t look severe, I saw why oncoming cars has all been slowing down while driving around the widest part of the flood.

Road flood 1

Road flood 2

Looking the other way.

Road Flood 3

Having avoided a bath from vehicles hurrying through the puddle to the right, I carried on to Daldowie. There’s a ‘pond’ at the side of entry road which they’ve almost managed to drain, but is too close to the water table for this to last, and its back. No reason to try to walk down there, but a little way to the left of the road is access to the river (Clyde) and some historic remains, which I wouldn’t try to reach unless it was summer, and a lot drier.

Daldowie flood

Out of curiosity, I carried on past the crematorium itself, and the gardens, on to the banks of the river.

Surprisingly, it was possible to get there without too much difficulty, but I made the mistake of carrying on past the ‘easy’ bit for a look at the lower lying area. The river had broken its banks there, and the ground was covered with silt and rubbish (branches, pieces of tree, reeds, grass etc) washed onto the land. While it had solidified, walking on it without wellies was a ‘bad idea’, and I ended up covered in muck. But I needn’t have worried, as I was soon to be cleaned up!

As I turned to leave, it started to rain… and this slowly just got heavier and heavier as I walked home…

Road flood 4

Although it was still draining at this point, the water was flowing freely across the road, and being added to by a small river coming down the hill from the road on the right.

Although muggins had to time his dash past this puddle (to avoid a shower from passing traffic), it was a largely futile gesture. I was already wringing wet from the waist down, soaked through and with shoes full of water. The only good point was that I don’t like fabric jackets. Even those sold as ‘waterproof’ aren’t really, so my genuinely waterproof jacket did its job and kept my upper half dry.

I’ve come home pretty wet before, but this was the first time I made puddles, and had to throw most of what I was wearing into the washer, to spin and tumble dry.

January 2, 2014 Posted by | photography | , , , | Leave a comment

Wet and soggy less fun than cold and dry

The past few years have delivered fairly cold and frozen Christmases, but this year has seen more wind and rain than anything else.

Over the past day or two this has changes to fairly heavy and constant rain, rather than showers, and also an easing  of the wind. When it finally let up (and I was able to wobble out to shops with no fear of being soaked through), I noticed that there had been so much rain in a short period that it was not able to run off and drain naturally. All the gardens seemed to have flooded around their borders, street drains were hidden away under puddles and small lakes, and bare earth had turned into mud flats and settling pools.

I had thought I might wander down to the River Clyde, but having been there in less soggy conditions than this, will probably not try this – for a few days at least, provided the rain relaxes.

There’s a small park in the middle of Baillieston, and when I looked across it tonight, saw it was also ‘wet and soggy’.

Another chance for a low light pic (hand-held) and with the bonus of some reflections to show that it was still rather wet.

Baillieston Park Flood Night

December 30, 2013 Posted by | photography | , , | Leave a comment

Low low pressure

I have a barograph (recording barometer) that sits quietly in the corner doing next to nothing.

I save myself the cost of pens and charts by adjusting the mechanism so the pen indicates correctly, but does not touch the chart paper. This can’t be done simply by discarding the pen, since this acts to balance the pen arm, and forms the last few millimetres of its length, so losing it would cause an error in the reading. Even so, I save myself the cost of charts by printing them via a laser printer. This also let me extend the chart area, as the original print had a huge border around the edge of the paper, losing about 10 mb at each end.

I’ve seen low readings before, and the instrument only goes down to 960 mb, but I can’t remember seeing the pen bouncing off the lower end of the scale as seen in the pic below, which has been the normal view for a view days now.

I’ve got some mercury barometers, and fired one up to get a current reading when I took the pic, and that showed our local reading to be 955 mb. I don’t know if it’s been lower, or might get lower, as it’s too much hassle to get regular reading off the mercury barometer. Which was why I slightly re-organised the recording version to indicate without recording.

(Please excuse the dust and fluff – the barometer usually sits safely out of the way on a shelf, where it can’t be bumped or disturbed – or dusted.)

Low barometer

December 24, 2013 Posted by | photography | , , | Leave a comment

Beware the Fool’s Autumn

Autumnal farm

Never heard of a Fool’s Autumn before, so when it hit the news headlines being delivered to my desktop I had to have a look.

Turns out it’s a witty reference to a phenomenon said to be arising from a dry summer and lack of rainfall, resulting in trees having their leaves turn autumnal in colour and fall, as they suffer from lack of water. According to records, this is the driest summer in Scotland since 2003.

As an aside, it will be interesting to see if this is followed by dreadful wailing from the farmers with poor crops, who were wailing last year, as it was so wet the crops were reported to be rotting in the fields (cue compensation.)

It has been notably wet in recent years, something I noticed as I walk to and from work. Ten years ago I was doing this wearing a jacket or suit, and seldom needed to wear a waterproof jacket or carry an umbrella. I never really noticed until more recent years, when the roads deteriorated and I found I was regularly having to dodge showers thrown up as traffic hammered through water-filled potholes.

Things have been much more pleasant this year, as the rain has let up. That’s not to say it hasn’t been raining, it has, but unlike previous years, this has been what I would refer to as ‘normal’ rain, by which it mean the rain has not been coming down as if someone was standing overhead and throwing bucket of water on me. I can make it to the shops (around 2 miles or so) without arriving soaked through and dripping, and with the water seeping through my clothes. Under ‘normal’ rain, I might be wet, but will not have had the weight of the rain driving through my clothes, and what I have collected can be shaken off, even if I’ve been walking through it for 40 minutes or so. It’s a nice change.

Over the past few weeks, I had already noticed how the leaves were already beginning to collect in the verges, even though it was only August, which has to be early for autumn, not considered to start  until September 21, according to the calendar. The discarding of leaves at this early stage is the tree’s method of saving water. A proper fall of leaves to mark autumn follows fading sunlight and cold temperatures, a combination which sees leaves lose their chlorophyll, the source of their green pigmentation, leaving the yellow and red pigments.

The Woodland Trust Scotland is asking for people to help record the effect by recording the colours of the leaves on the trees in local parks. Data recorded by the Trust over the past ten years suggests that trees across Scotland on average show the first signs of genuine autumnal colouring during late September, with the full effect appearing in mid-late October.

The Trust is asking the public to use its VisitWoods website to find their nearest wood and record dates of true autumn colour – vivid reds, golds and browns.

See also Nature’s Calendar

Via ‘Fool’s autumn’ for Scotland after dry summer

September 14, 2013 Posted by | Appeal | , , , , | Leave a comment

Garthamlock, water towers, and the weather

I had forgotten about collecting the pics below, of the water towers located in Garthamlock, and part of Glasgow’s water supply system.

I’d often looked at them from the distance, and wondered just where they were, then found myself not to far from them recently, and decided to walk along after spotting the tops peeping over the roof of the building I was actually visiting.

Rotten weather

The weather connection arises from the fact that these pics were taken weeks ago, on March 1 (which means it could almost have been the end of February!), when the weather was dry and sunny, and the days were almost warm, if a little crisp, with blue and near cloudless skies. I was able to go out and walk for miles almost every day back then, and do so in comfort.

Compare and contrast to the past few weeks, when I have not even felt like going outdoors, far less for a walk of between 2 and 5 hours.

At the moment, being outside for that long  would probably mean being soaked through (which happens anyway, when I go to the shops), as it has been raining regularly for the past few weeks, and most days here currently come with a gusting wind strong enough to blow you about the pavement, makes sure you can’t use an umbrella (if you want to keep it, or not have it broken), or keep a jacket hood up without holding it down.

While that are some really nice days in between this wet and wind, it’s still remarkable how miserable the weather has been throughout April, while the end of February and start of March was particularly fine, if not warm. The days were not actually that cold, but the nights always fell below freezing, and although there was less wind than we have at the moment, when it did come, it was cold – it came from the west, and having started in Siberia it just got colder as it travelled across Russia before arriving in Scotland. I kid you not, even a small breeze froze your face as the effect of wind chill factor became a reality.

Water towers

I certainly couldn’t have taken pics like those seen below if I tried today. Today, it is raining, the skies are grey and cloudy, and the wind would not make the exposed hill these water tanks sit atop be a place to be if one has the choice.

Note the stylish cell phone masts added to the towers, definitely not original.

I know some people hate concrete, but I think these towers look superb.

You can also see some small black enclosures mounted on ground posts. These carry the lights which shine on the surface of the towers at night, and produce a steadily varying coloured light show at night. Unfortunately, I live too far away from the towers for much chance of wandering along in the dark and catching some close-up pics of the show, so you’ll just have to hut around the web for those.

While I was able to work around the lampposts and keep them out of the picture, the same could not be said for one very irritating small tree, which insisted on staying in shot. Eventually I gave up trying to avoid, or fetching a chain saw, and decided to feature it by placing it right on the centreline of the smaller tower. At least it was not in leaf, so not obscuring most of the view.

Garthamlock water tower 1

Garthamlock water tower 2

Garthamlock water tower 3

Garthamlock water tower 4

Garthamlock water tower 5

April 26, 2013 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , | Leave a comment

The Isle of Bute didn’t avoid the bad weather this time around

I’ve been looking outside for the past few days and counting myself and my neighbours to be lucky, for once.

In the storms and gales that have arrived over the past few years, I’ve seen many walls blown over, bricks and tiles ripped off roofs, and anything light (such as a felt-covered roof) being torn loose and carried away, never to be seen again. Last year saw many trees blown over to, with some landing on nearby houses.

This year, even though I have watched some alarming leaning and bending by some structures, I’ve yet to see the same sort of thing repeated. So far, all I have come across is some hefty branches ripped off tall trees, and they looked weakened by disease or decay. Part of this I put down to the number of repairs and renewals made after the damage of past years, but I still think we’ve been lucky, and the hills around Glasgow have sheltered us – this time.

Less fortunate of areas near me seems to have been the coastal areas of the Firth of Clyde, and after some hearing some descriptions of local damage in the area, got to see the sort of damage that the Isle of Bute suffered. While it has not escaped completely in recent years, it often seems to get off lightly, and when I used to take a jaunt over at Christmas and Hogmanay, was often surprised at just how nice it could be there, even though it was only a few miles away from ‘home,’, where things were not so cosy.

Click on the first picture below, which shows damage to the unfortunate roof of one of Rothesay’s fine ornate tenement buildings on East Princes Street, to see a gallery of the damage done on January 3, 2011.

Duncan's roof

Damaged tenement roof, January 2011 © Zak


Updated pic by Zak showing the hidden side of the damage caught in the pic above:

Duncan's roof

Damaged tenement roof, January 2011 © Zak

And finally…

I’m pleased to see that the (presumably) last pic in this series confirmed my location of the unfortunate roof shown above (which was not really difficult):

Duncans roof

Damaged tenement, January 2011 © Zak


I noticed another pic that perhaps serves to convey how serious things were, not only on the island itself, but (as I was informed by others) anywhere in this particular corner of Argyll and  Bute served by the same electrical supply.

Heavy winds knocked out the supply from  about 7 am on the 3rd until about 1 am on the 4th!

Below is a pic Zak took of a snack bar ferried over from the mainland to provide hot meals on the 3rd.

Bad as things were, seeing this is actually a good thing as it meant the weather had subsided, and the island was not suffering the additional hard of being cut off from the mainland by the high winds, which can force the ferries to stay in port because of the risks involved with going to sea.

Bute storm snacks

Snack bar ferried from the mainland, January 2011 © Zak

January 5, 2012 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Poor weather put dampener on first ever microlight event at Prestwick Airport

While I wouldn’t have been there, it was a bit sad reading how wet and windy weather had all but decimated the first ever meeting of microlight enthusiasts at Prestwick Airport – which would have formed an unusual sight as they are normally excluded for safety reasons due to the volume of commercial flight at the airfield.

As it was, just one microlight made it, while everyone else attended by road, as the day was centred on safety, with NATS (National Air Traffic Services) providing a full day of practical safety information for microlight pilots.

BBC News – Microlight event at Prestwick Airport hit by weather.

Maybe they would have better luck if they arrange the next on the Isle of Bute:

Baird of Bute Photo Gallery by Rothesay at

And had their meeting on the recently named Baird Airstrip – followed by a nice day on the island.


May 14, 2011 Posted by | Aviation, Civilian, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

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