It snowed a couple of days ago, and the sub-zero temperatures have kept it lying around, although today the icy slush has started melting away in the rain. A couple of days beforehand I went for a bike ride along the Water of Leith and the Union Canal, while after it snowed my daughter and I went for a hike in the Pentlands, which is as far as we could go during lockdown. Here’s a dozen photos of those outings to see out the year.
As part of tidying up some loose ends before midnight, here’s a new gallery of panoramas taken this year, which will eventually be supplemented with whatever I take locally next year. Most of them are from a day-trip to Fife with the kids in the October school break, which is as far from Edinburgh as we’ve been since February.
It’s the end of the bleakest lead-up to Christmas that I can remember. Boris Johnson is touting his just-agreed EU trade deal as if it’s the best Christmas present ever, when in reality it’s the hardest Brexit short of no deal and will set Britain back for years. Thousands of lorry drivers are stuck in queues at Dover after borders were closed because of covid, when they were already racking up because of increased delivery traffic ahead of the end of transition. A new strain of the disease is spreading across the UK, with Scotland just over 24 hours from a new lockdown and UK covid cases approaching the peak of the first one. The prospect of widespread vaccination still seems a long way off.
A few weeks ago our students on An Introduction to Digital Environments for Learning were looking at Tom Flint‘s excellent project replicating Jupiter Artland in Minecraft, which prompted me to share with some of them the two galleries I made in 2014 of my first visits to the real-life Jupiter Artland.
Looking at them again made me realise that I’ve taken a lot of photos there since, and have posted hardly any of them here. So I’ve made a new gallery, covering the art and the nature of the first two. Many of the artworks featured aren’t in the first gallery, because they weren’t there yet, but there’s some overlap.
On Saturday we made another trip out to Jupiter Artland before it shuts for the winter. As with everywhere in these pandemic times, we had to book a time-slot for our visit rather than just turn up, and it was a time we wouldn’t normally have gone: arriving at 3 p.m., 46 minutes before sunset. But it turned out to offer a whole new perspective on the place we know; as well as the obligatory sunset-over-Jupiter photos, I took several of the rising full moon behind Cells of Life, Love Bomb, and other Artland fixtures. We also got to see Joana Vasconcelos’s Gateway pool, which had been closed for most of the pandemic. A dozen of these photos of Artland at dusk round out Artland Seasons.
The kids were on their term break last week, which usually would mean some sort of trip away for a few days… but in covidtimes, not so much. Instead we did a few day trips, including one to a place I’d long been curious about: the Scottish Owl Centre at Polkemmet Country Park near Bathgate, halfway between Edinburgh and Glasgow. It’s operating at reduced hours but still open, so we went along for a couple of hours of owl observation.
It was great. There’s something about a place devoted to one specific kind of animal (or bird) that’s even more satisfying than a full-blown zoo: you get to see dozens of variations on a theme, and realise how diverse they are. It’s a terrific place to take photos and turn them into a gallery:
I haven’t written much here about Pandemic Life for a while. Things have been busy since the start of August, when I started a new management role in my institute, alongside getting ready for the start of an unusual semester of teaching. As usual, until September we had no idea how many students would turn up, but with none of the predictability of normal times that would let us get close in our forecasting. At the back of everyone’s minds was the thought that all of our preparation for hybrid teaching, with online-only fall-back options for formerly face-to-face courses, might be for the benefit of half as many MSc students as usual. But as it turns out, our school has matched the record numbers of last year. Our Digital Education programme’s intake is up by half, and student numbers on my option course are up 60% on the previous peak. It seems everyone wants to improve their knowledge of digital education, and of its wider global context.
I spent a few days driving back and forth to Glentress with the kids last week, while they did separate mountain biking courses with Dirt School. While one was on a course I rode with the other, although rain on the second and third days slowed us down a bit. It was a chance to take some more photos of the place to flesh out the gallery I posted last year at Detail. Here are the new ones in their own right.
I went for a drive on Saturday, leaving the confines of Edinburgh for the first time in four months to take my daughter to the beach. It had been so long since I’d filled up the car that I’d forgotten how to open the fuel door. With that embarrassing hurdle cleared, we headed out to the bypass and drove twice as fast as we had done in, again, four months, stopping only for the inevitable traffic jam at every roundabout and exit on the way to North Berwick. We didn’t exit there, but headed on to Dunbar, to have a look at John Muir Country Park. The entrance is right next to East Links Family Park, which was heaving with people.
Even the Country Park carpark was almost full, but we found a spot and walked along a path behind the dunes to Whitesands Beach, a vast expanse at low tide, where even the high numbers of visitors were swallowed up by the space. It was virtually impossible to do anything except socially distance, so as far as infection risk went, it felt safer than doing the shopping or walking along our street. While my daughter ran in and out of the waves and buried herself in sand, I took a few photos, which look even emptier than the place did in person—the opposite of all those newspaper telephoto shots designed to make Britain’s beaches look packed. Here they are.