Author Archives: Ruby

Into the city⤴

from @ Ruby on Wheels

For the first time in AGES I took the bus into Edinburgh. Actually, I hardly ever take the bus, but since getting my free bus pass it seems that it would be sensible to use that mode of transport. Besides, parking in Edinburgh is a real pain.

I had forgotten the sound of “tarum-bump … tarum-bump …” as we went over the joins in the Forth Road Bridge. Since the new bridge opened several years ago, that’s always been the way we cross the river. The view from the bus windows was also just that little bit different from the car window on the new bridge. I forgot that I was wearing a mask.

When I first moved out of the city to relocate in Fife, I remember that quite a few friends point blank refused to come and visit. It was too far. But I could come in to visit them, and meet up, and do “things”. It seemed a bit churlish to point out that it was exactly the same distance, and visiting me was easier for parking. However, more often than not I decided to just travel in. It was easy in the evening when we decided to go to listen to live jazz. The roads were quiet, and it took no more than 30 minutes door to door, sometimes just 20 minutes. There was always a sense of escape as we crossed back over the bridge. Although we still had a few miles to go, the crossing of the Forth symbolised escaping from the city. Was it just imagination that the air cleared as well?

Edinburgh was looking spectacular. I walked along the Gardens underneath the Castle, and even the local drunks looked as if they were enjoying the fresher air and being outdoors. I had a moment of anxiety as I climbed the stairs out of the gardens – quite a few people were walking along that bit of pavement and it looked difficult to negotiate a “social distance” safely. So I looked straight ahead and just kept going to cross the road. The idea that I looked too serious and un-friendly briefly crossed my mind, but it seemed more important to get across to the quieter pavement safely.

I met some lovely friends for coffee and we chatted about what we’d managed to achieve with venturing into the world again, and visits to family, and little outings. It was good to share the balance we’re trying to get in our lives as retirees and in the “vulnerable” group. We parted with promises to do it again very soon, and I expect we might just manage to make this a regular meetup, if we can even manage to find a time when we’re all free.

Scots wha’ ha’ …⤴

from @ Ruby on Wheels

We’re approaching another Burns’ Night (25th January, for those who don’t know) but this year I’m really looking forward to the BBC programme about one of the major inspirations to Burns – Robert Fergusson.fergusson

The information about the programme is on, which also has a trailer for the documentary.

Every year the Fergusson Society lay a wreath on his gravestone in the Canongate Kirkyard
Fergusson's grave October 2011

Filed under: personal

“ruby on wheels” is about to go on Indian wheels⤴

from @ Ruby on Wheels

I’m going to join the “College on Wheels” project organised by the University of Delhi. As a member of staff of the University of Edinburgh, I’ll be supporting students as they join 1,000 others on a train journey across part of India. The website has more information:

“… around 1,000 students and staff will travel by train around India for one week in September.

The train will travel from Delhi into the cultural, economic and agricultural heartland of Punjab, allowing the travellers to better understand the dynamics of the region’s emerging economy, as well as its importance in terms of farming and heritage.

It will also travel to Amritsar, the spiritual centre for the Sikh religion; Ludhiana, the industrial hub of North India; and Chandigarh, the first planned city in post-independence India.”

Visa is organised, I’ve had some of the vaccinations, and now I have to think about what I’ll wear!

Should be a very interesting trip.



Trying a video upload⤴

from @ Ruby on Wheels

What’s the best way to share a video on a blog? After having a quick look at the WordPress video add-on, which is quite pricy, I decided to try a work-around. First, I created a movie trailer on the iPad, using iMovie. This gave me a video clip that was short, but not short enough for flickr (which allows 90seconds only). So I had to edit the trailer, also using the iPad. I imported the trailer into the iMovie project folder, which allowed me to cut a little bit off the beginning and end (I couldn’t find a way to crop or change the trailer on iMovie).

This gave me a shorter (58second) trailer, which I then uploaded to flickr. It was plenty small enough (I’m allowed up to 500MB of video on flickr, and this was 21,678KB), but it took several tries before flickr accepted the upload. For some reason (haven’t worked out why) I kept getting an error message saying that the upload had timed out. Eventually I used the built-in “old” uploadr on flickr, and that worked.

This gave me embed code to embed in this blog. The embed code is in the “share” drop-down menu on flickr.

So here it is!

Bye bye little fish⤴

from @ Ruby on Wheels

When we got married, my new husband brought along a fish tank with 4 angel fish, 4 scarlet tetras, and several albino corries. The we bought a blue samurai, which unfortunately didn’t last very long. He was very beautiful, with his long fronds, but he didn’t get along with the others very well.
Since then two of the angel fish have died, both within a very short time of each other.
And today another one decided to go and join them in fishy heaven (well – actually just a different kind of water supply … ).
So why is it easy to see fish come and go and not get too worried about it? Is it because we eat fish? Not that there would be very much protein in an angel fish. They didn’t have names, so maybe that makes it easier to flush one away (oops!)?
Or do we expect that as fish don’t have feelings, there’s no need to have feelings about them either? Is it a case of projecting onto the animals the emotions we would feel, and so if there’s no communication of feelings then we can’t respond to them?
That doesn’t bode we’ll for meeting aliens from another planet …

Meanwhile, the one remaining Angel seems to be a bit more lonely.

Free writing practice⤴

from @ Ruby on Wheels

Once again, I’ve been encouraging students to write for pleasure (not just because they have to) and once again I promised that if they could manage to write for at least 5 minutes every day, then I would do that too. Of course, the first problem with deciding just to ‘write’ is that you don’t know what to write about. Perhaps starting with life today …
This evening we went to the photographic club again. We started just a few weeks ago, and it’s been really quite interesting. I’ve put some photos in for a competition, and have found out about rules about mounting and labelling. This evening’s meeting was mainly looking at the results of the Scottish Photographic Federation – seems there’s an annual competition with various categories. It was nice to see some members of the club had some winning photos in the collection.
It was also interesting to realise that some of the hoots were quite like some of my own photos! I wonder if I’ll be able to start winning prizes. Several of the overall winners fitted easily into specific sections and categories – birds were popular, and also sports. I don’t think I’ll be doing much of them, though, as I suspect you need to have quite a powerful zoom lens to be able to get the close-up shots with all the clarity and detail. There were also lots of landscapes, but they tended not to get the higher marks. For me, the most surprising categories were the collages and obviously-photoshopped prints. For some reason, I’d expected they would take a more “pure” attitude to photos – giving more credit for photos that were hardly manipulated at all. Not the case, though.
After getting home, I was inspired to go onto the computer and upload a photo to my Flickr account – before Christmas we went to Spain and I haven’t yet posted many of the photos. So I put up one of Steve standing in an archway in the Alhambra.
alhambra arch

The Trumpet Blasts …⤴

from @ Ruby on Wheels

Any Scot with a smattering of knowledge about our history will know something about the content of a book titled “The First Blast of the Trumpet“. It can be none other than John Knox. Indeed, the novel is about Knox’s early life. The idea of finding out a bit more about his background and the issues of the time intrigued me, and I welcomed the opportunity to read a wee bit of history with a wee bit of fiction intertwined. The novel didn’t disappoint.

The novel introduces various characters such as the Elizabeth Hepburn, the Earl of Bothwell, as well as John Knox, and the relationships between the characters gradually unfolds (although I must admit I was puzzled at first at the chapters devoted to life in St Mary’s Abbey). There are a few fictional characters, but most of the main action is based on historical figures. This gives the novel a good grounding in real events. There are some surprisingly “naughty” episodes; this gives an insight into not just the history of the times but also the morals and expectations of society. The hold of the Church on so many decisions about society is well-documented, but in a novel you get to see the ways this affects the ordinary people.

When giving dialogue from a time in history, the writer will always have to make some linguistic choices – keep true to the language of the time and risk giving conversation that is unintelligible to a modern audience, or give a more up-to-date conversation with some indication of what it would have been like. MacPherson has chosen the latter, and has done it successfully. Little smatterings of Scots give a flavour of the language and develop the characters: “haud your wheesht”, “Thon sleekit skite …”, “… you’re all gowks.”

The novel takes events up to the time when John Knox is about to embark on his own spiritual journey, but has to leave Scotland.

MacPherson, Marie (2012) The First Blast of the Trumpet

The book is available from Amazon and also from Knox Robinson Publishing