Black and white in colour

Tara’s Gallery theme this week is Black and white which seemed too good an opportunity to miss.  This photo of a sea anemone is one of my favourites and my Facebook comrades will recognise it from my profile picture. I took it years ago in the late 1980s on an expedition to St Kilda. There is an underwater cave about 25m down, right below the peak of the island of Dùn in Village Bay; the roof of the cave is covered with sheets of these white cluster anemones (and I’m sorry, we have to do Latin here) Parazoanthus anguicomus.  This photo might not win prizes or be technically the best but I like it.  It evokes for me a wonderful dive site and some great trips to the very edge of Scotland.  Happy times!

This little anemone (each one is about 1cm across) is always found in good places.  It lives along much of the west coast of Scotland, although it doesn’t make it further south than the north coast of Ireland, but the brightest, whitest ones live in the clear offshore waters, and particularly on the specatacular underwater cliffs of St Kilda.  It has a yellow sibling species, which, preferring warmer waters, only makes it as far north as south west Scotland;  rather like Will and Ed the Grundy brothers, the two are only rarely seen in each others company.

Anyone who has dived in British waters will know that they frequently have to justify their strange proclivities to the unbelievers of this world.

“Oh, it must be so cold!”  Well yes, it can be, but so’s skiing. You just have to wear the right gear.  “And surely there’s nothing to see. Isn’t it all dirty brown?”  So, just to show you that it’s not all black and white and dirty brown in underwater Britain, I’ve put in a few other sea anemone-type photos.

And in case this counts as cheating, here’s a post I wrote early last year which has some proper black and white photos.  I was contemplating writing something using these pictures when I remembered that I’d already done it.

Ticking off


Last week I saw:

  • A solitary raven;
  • Two hen harriers;
  • Three golden eagles;
  • Six or maybe seven distilleries;
  • Lots and lots of Barnacle geese and White fronted geese;
  • A pair of slightly mamillate hills;
  • A narrow channel with water zipping past, into which we had to dangle a camera on a rope;
  • One wave power generator;
  • and some rain.  A rainbow.  A ferry or two.

We stayed in a dilapidated hotel, bits of which were being renovated. “I’ll upgrade your rooms for the same price” said the landlady, “if you’ll sleep in the single beds and don’t use the doubles.”  What?  We were the only guests.  There was a Spanish Chinese chef, new to the job; despite the promises of signs in the bar, we had to negotiate at length for any food other than breakfast at a specified time.  Arriving back in at 0845 after a 6am start, we thought we’d be in time for bacon sandwiches but no. The cookers had been turned off and weren’t going on again.  Still, it had the benefit of being only yards from the harbour and our boat, always a bonus at 6am.

Where was I?


The Auchenstary Aspirants

I’ve been tagged by Lynne to tell you seven things.  I’m not sure there’s much you don’t know about me, as I’ve already dumped a large proportion of my life into these blog pages.  However, prompted by some old photographs I came across the other day, here goes (and apologies if you’re heard most of this already):

1  The first alcohol I ever drank was Red Stripe beer. It was in Daphne’s bar, a roadside shack with reggae blaring out, somewhere by the road between Cow Bay and Kingston on the Jamaican south coast.  We used to dive at Cow Bay every Saturday morning and stop on the way home at Daphne’s for escoveitched fish, sourdough bread and ice cold Red Stripe beer.

2  I was the 2nd woman to land on Rockall – by 5 minutes.  The first woman went on Woman’s Hour to talk about it!   But GPD and I are pretty sure we were the first people to dive with sharks at Rockall.

3  I did the Nevis River race in 1979 or 80, with a crazy bunch of mountaineering friends.  We had to hurl ourselves into a raging torrent clutching a lilo,  shoot the rapids and jump over the waterfall Continue reading

Not a bad day


If it’s not raining in Shetland, it’s “not a bad day”.  If you can see across the voe “it’s clearing up nicely”.  Perhaps, then, it’s not too surprising that the lead article on the front of the Shetland Times when I was there recently was marvelling at the heat wave, with July temperatures reaching 20.8º C.  Yes, that’s right – a meltingly hot 20.8º C.  I can vouch for these scorching conditions as I went for a walk across the Muckle Roe moors in shorts and t-shirt without so much as a waterproof in my bag.  We made the most of the lovely conditions for our first few days of rocky shore surveys in Sullom Voe; if you have to be out on the shore at 5 am to catch low water, good weather certainly helps.  Still, weather can be so fickle and normal service resumed later in the week.  The wind veered back to the north west, the temperature plummeted to a more seasonal 12- 15º C, and “it wasn’t a bad day, clearing up nicely”.   

 But all good things have a downside, do they not?  Warm, calm weather in Shetland is midge nirvana.   The  irritating midges on our holiday in Co Donegal the previous week were novice apprentices Continue reading

The holiday from hell?

Superfluous to requirements on holiday:-

  • Shorts
  • Cropped trousers
  • Sun hats
  • Rounders bat
  • My crutches!

Would have been useful:-

  • More fleeces
  • More waterproofs
  • GP2’s current wetsuit (ie not the one he grew out of 2 years ago)
  • More warm things for under my drysuit
  • Wooly hats
  • Flask.

But I’m glad we left at home:-

  • The tent.

I’m sure you get the idea.  On our last two holidays on Coll we experienced weather hotter than the Mediterranean. In fact, the last time we were there, there was a drought and water had to be shipped in by tanker.  That was the time we were being kept awake in the tent by corncrakes in the adjacent field. 

The weather wasn’t really that bad, this time.  It was a mixture of wind, showers and patches of sunshine and, as the wind came from the north and west, we could body board on the glorious, deserted beaches of the west coast and dive on the east coast.  And yes, I went diving.  Continue reading

A secret handshake?

Littlemummy, Mother at Large and Guineapigmum met up for coffee today at Victor Hugo’s.  Perhaps there should be a special handshake for the secret – or very public – world of bloggers.  It was fun to meet the faces behind some of the blogs I read and yes, we do have names as do our children.  We chatted about this and that and, well, why?  We may well meet up again – maybe we could become a complement to the Edinburgh Coffee Mornings (those photos do look very male dominated, by the way!), and advertise our next meeting in advance.  The Coffee Break, perhaps?   Today (or maybe yesterday, by now) was serendipity. 

We’re off to the Isle of Coll later today; GP1 thinks it will be the most boring holiday on the planet, but he’ll love it once we’re there. Says Mum.  As a consequence it will be very quiet in this corner for the next week.  At least this time silence will be due to physical absence rather than the gloom that descended over me during the latter stages of plaster incarceration, that precluded any sort of positive spin. 

And please, please, please let it be sunny!

A Scottish summer

The boys are back, exhausted and happy.  They’ve had a ball and the concert yesterday was fantastic, a really high standard. They’re full of stories and are both set on going back again next year, so 6 hours a day of music and a hectic social scene has enthused rather than discouraged them.  GP2 went straight to bed when we got home yesterday at 7pm and slept for 14 hours solid.  I suspect he’d been surviving on adrenalin for the last day or so! Plus the odd dousing in North Sea waters, given the state of the clothes that are going into the washing machine. 

So we have a few days at home and then it’s off to Katie Morag country for a week with the dive club.  Continue reading