Pictures by Walter

A View With Every Picture


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Adventures with Susan – A Walk In The Park October 2005

As 2005 wound it way to 2006 our friendship was deepening.  Having discovered digital photography I always took a small camera into work with me.  On days that I walk to work I would stop and take photos of Sunrise, how the light changed the shape of trees and images which pleased me.  At this time I was using a simple point and shoot Nikon E7900 a 7 mega pixel camera that fitted into my pocket. In fact that little camera was responsible in re-awakening my interest in photography.  Looking back to 2005 images I rediscovered a set taken on the Wednesday 5th October 2005 during a lunchtime stroll along the river Almond (Now Almondale Park.   Looking at the images I realised that the landscape then was a lot different as were the amenities.  Under the  Livingston Development Corporation (LDC) the town was developed in stages.  The riverside was retained as natural as possible with an open air bandstand/Antitheater, Pitch & Putt course (Now the site of the Civic Centre). Walkways, seats placed alongside the river. In 2005 a lot of the sites were dilapidated and in need of restoration/replacement.

However, the walk along the river was a pleasant walk on a nice with plenty to see if one looked carefully.  I found to my pleasure that Susan like to listen to the birdsongs, and nature watch  We were slowly finding out that we did have a lot in common as well has having different interests from each other.

Being Autumn the foliage was autumnal in colour, gold, bronze and the birds were singing or even trilling their songs. Squirrels were dashing up and down trunks, scampering along branches looking for nuts etc to take to their store for the oncoming winter.  I found on these walks that Susan loved nature in all its forms,  she was perfectly happy to sit and just listen to the sounds that surrounded us.

During good weather days we would take many walks along side the river Almond and the many country parks surrounding Livingston over the 14 years we were together.  Our last trip was on the 14th June 2019 when we went to look at the changes made to the old weir at the road bridge on the B7015 Calder Road.  They had made changes to reduce the force of the water flow from the weir and creat salmon ladders and pools to allow salmon to get up river.  We had seen the Almond change from a dirty, frothy, contaminated river to a cleaner river that salmon had returned to.  That was just the latest change we had witnessed over the 14 years.

Link to the album of our walk on 5th October 2005


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Adventures with Susan – Auchingarrich Wildlife Centre October 2005

Perthshire hills

Looking back at pictures taken in 2005 it would appear to have been avery good year weather

Susan acting her age.

wise.  I am judging by the fact that on the 2nd of October 2015 Susan along with my young cousin Caitlynn headed off to Auchingarrich Wildlife Centre.  If I recall correctly it was known as Auchingarrich Wildlife Park then and the sky was blue and the sun shone.   I had found out about this hitherto unknown wee gem of a place in Undiscovered Scotland.  The park was nestled in the Perthshire Hills near Comrie.  It was a wee bit of an eye opener, in more ways than one.  As well as the park it was also a farm, a Bird of Prey Centre with indoor playing areas where kids of all ages can have fun.  I discovered then that Susan had a zest for life and refused to let decorum or other restrictions on how adults should behave stop her from releasing her “inner child” (see picture on left).  Caitlynn was surprised at first as was I.. shocking behavior in front of my young cousin  ;).  We headed to the cafe (which would always be our first port of call on any visit), to enjoy coffee and a bite to eat before we set off exploring.

Susan posing at Standing Stone

Outsider the cafe to the left as you leave is a small hillock with a standing stone on a small hillock. I forget how old it is, but it has been there since the year dot as we say.  I posed Susan next to the stone to proved scale, and as I suspect that many of use would do, Susan reached out and touched it (see image on right).  As she turned her back to the stone, I looked up with a look of horror on my face and indicated that the

Kookaburra

stone was falling…..   I got laldy from her – she discovered I had retained my service humour.  We did have a good laugh over that over the years.  It was here we both saw our first Kookaburra – the Australian King Fisher, funny it would be another 8 years before we say the British Kingfisher and that was on our trip to Bath via Stratford on Avon.   We had a right laugh at the sign pointing “This way for the Tartan Sheep”, we ignored as we were sure were were not tartan sheep or that gullible.    There are many exotic animals at the centre/park and all well looked after.  We wandered among geese, ducks, hairy heiland coo (that ate bananas as a treat), the outdoor play park where the kids had fun:

Susan on the ball, Caitlynn the catcher

Sited among the Perthshire Hills Auchingarrich provides good opportunity for landscape photography as well as wildlife (captive or otherwise).  What of our younger member Caitlynn?  Apart from attempting to keep Susan under control she was enjoying the experience apart from birds flying near her.  She told us that she had a fear of birds as did her mother.  However, she had no objections to walking through the Birds of Prey section as she was assured there would be no birds flying loose there.   As we wandered around the central arena Caitlynn spotted a small “Kestrel” it was being held by its handler.  She backed away from the bird which had fluttered as it was startled by some noise.  The handler placed the bird on its perch, amd went to reassure Caitlynn that the bird was more afraid of her the she of it.  Susan and I looked on as the handler slowly talked Caitlynn into approaching the bird, but not too near.  As the handler told of the life of the bird Caitlynn began to relax and ask questions about the birds in general.  After a while the handler asked Caitlynn if she would like to have the bird on her hand?  Hmm, bad idea I though as I had experienced the effects of her phobia when a wee budgie escaped from the cage at home.  To my surprise and to her credit Caitlynn did indeed hold allow the bird to perch on her hand, but as the picture shows she was still wary of it.  Susan and I were so proud of my young cousin that day.  Mind you she went with Susan to the cafe as I took a few shots of a  falcon in a flying display.  In all we had a great day out and as the weather was beginning to change we decided to head home after we had some tea of course.  As we left the cafe and headed for the car I took one last picture.

A promise for the Future

 

 

 


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Adventures with Susan Part 3B – Deep Seaworld (2005)

As our ramble around Kinross Gardens was a bit too quick and the day was sunny we decided to spend a little time in a cooler place.  After a short discussion we headed for  North Queensferry and Deep Seaworld as Caitlynn and, if truth be known, Susan wanted to walk under the sharks.  So we headed back south and entered the undersea world.

Walter walking under the sharks at Deep SeaWorld

I am saddened to state I have very little memory of the visit, I know I was there and took pictures in very trying conditions.  Susan took a few, one of which is me walking under the sea tunnel with camera glued to eye as I attempted to take pictures.

I do wish I had more memory of the visit and I’m positive we did go back on another day. I do know Caitlynn and Susan were really excited, no surprise there with Caitlynn, but Susan displayed the joy and wonder she felt so openly in her face.  I came to know that look as so often she showed it on our outings, sometimes the simplest thing would light up her face.

One thing – we found Nemo before he was officially lost, as the picture below reveals: (click on image to see album of visit)

Nemo Found

In all we had a good day visiting Kinross House Gardens and Deep SeaWorld.


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Adventures with Susan Part 3a- Kinross House Gardens

Susan, Catelynn and Debbie

Having enjoyed our inauguration adventure on The jacobite we looked forward to our next adventure which turned out to be in two parts.

On this adventure we had the company of my cousin Debbie and her daughter Caitlynn.  I have heard that the days remembered always appear to have been warm and sunny, all I can say is that 7th August 2005 was very hot and sunny.    Our first stop was Kinross House to wander round the formal gardens. I had discovered the gardens some time previously and told Susan about them.  No entry to the house, just the gardens and it was an honesty box system.   I understand that the house and gardens were sold in 2012 and one can no longer visit the gardens.

As you may have noticed Susan had her camera with her and  looking at her archives I found some pictures she took of the day:

Susan was a good photographer but she really enjoyed doing videos.  However she would always take a few shots – but tended to use mine in preference to hers own.

I particularly like this one of my young cousin Caitlynn that she took:

If it is true that one can no longer walk around the garden it is a sad loss. The history of the gardens was interesting as was the layout.  From the garden you could see across Loch Leven to the ruins of Loch Leven Castle

Ruins of Loch Leven Castle

From Wikipedia:

Loch Leven Castle is a ruined castle on an island in Loch Leven, in the Perth and Kinross local authority area of Scotland. Possibly built around 1300, the castle was the location of military action during the Wars of Scottish Independence (1296–1357). In the latter part of the 14th century, the castle was granted by his uncle to William Douglas, 1st Earl of Douglas, and remained in Douglases’ hands for the next 300 years. Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned here in 1567–68, and forced to abdicate as queen, before escaping with the help of her gaoler‘s family. In 1588, the Queen’s gaoler inherited the title Earl of Morton, and moved away from the castle. It was bought, in 1675, by Sir William Bruce, who used the castle as a focal point in his garden; it was never again used as a residence.

Today, the remains of the castle are protected as a scheduled monument in the care of Historic Environment Scotland.[1] Loch Leven Castle is accessible in summer by the public via a ferry.

Click on image to see Album.


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Adventures with Susan – The Jacobite Trip (2005)

Ex-LNER K1 – 62005 “Lord of the Isles”

2005 was a sad year for Susan as her mum had passed away on 25th July.  I Had not been aware of that fact until she returned to work.  During one of our lunch break walks we had touched upon taking a trip together a day out so to speak.  Quite how we decided upon a trip on The Jacobite I am not certain.  Susan had taken her grandkids to see Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter 2) and the segment with crossing Glenfinnan Viaduct had stirred a desire to cross by train.  We agreed to to take a chance and head up to Fort William and see if we could get a ticket.  Our first on many adventures together was on.

Loch Tulla Viewpoint

Loch Tulla Viewpoint and Black Mount

It is said (but not by whom) that everyone experiences a “Perfect Day” once in their life.. Sunday the 31st July 2005 was such a day.  We set off from Livingston at 6:00 am it was a clear day with nary a cloud in the sky.  It takes 3 hours + to get to Fort William allowing for photo stops on the way.  Susan was in good spirits as we set off heading for what would be our usual route to Glencoe.  We stopped at the Loch Tulloch Viewpoint – surprisingly clear of tourists.  I was struck with the cloud formation above the Black Mount as it gave the impression (to me at least) a simmering volcano.  At 8:30 the morning was

Buachaille Etive Mòr

already warm and the day held a lot of promise.  As this was our first trip together, on what would become a regular outing (Glencoe), I did not stop at the layby near Buachaille Etive Mòr as I was not aware of the significance of her to Susan at that time.  However, Susan did get one on the way back. We arrived in plenty of time to be first in line for a ticket (not guaranteed – we learnt from that to always book ahead.)  We were in high spirits, like excited school kids on their first outing.  Looking back, and I may be seeing through rose tinted glasses (makes a change from looking through ones with smears), we were relaxed in each other’s company.  Susan was smiling a lot as she pointed out Ben Nevis and relating her climb with Bob up the mountain.  I was twittering about the history of the line.   At 09:50 we were offered two tickets (Return) and boarded “The Jacobite” for our adventure through the mountains, along the lochs, gullies. cuttings heading to Mallaig behind a living breathing dragon.. oops sorry got carried away with a memory there.

We did a there and back again trip.  Have enjoyed ourselves  exploring Mallaig ie finding an eating place , walking along the harbour and general chit-chat we found we had many things in common as well as many differences, somehow there must have been residual magic from the HP film as we planned our next adventure together.

Album: Click here to see album

My final photo of that trip shows a Susan deep in thought with her reflection on the carriage window.  I would take many pictures of Susan on our adventures and with the Intrepids but this remains special  as I said everyone has at least one perfect day mine went on for 14 years.

Susan Wales Memories

Video


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All Change – 12 Months on……

My last blog on the theme all change was on 29th January 2019.  Sitting here today (28th December 2019) I am struggling to find the words within myself to relate what happened over the past 11 months.  In February 2019 my partner Susan was informed that once again she had cancer, but this time it was in the Abdomen walls. She underwent 4 sessions of Chemo in six weeks with the hope that the cancer would be cleared.  In May Susan was once again in hospital with bowel blockage – it was thought the she had impacted feces. It was whilst she was in Ward 11 Western General Hospital that she dropped a bombshell – here follows an extract from her blog for that day:

8/5/2019 Proposed to Walter. He did his impression of a Watership Down rabbit but has accepted.

It just seems the right time. but it seems right that I give him as much public recognition as do my utmost to make the rest of the time we have together filled with good things. The reaction to our news has been totally mind blowing. It should be a great party.  The method of proposal was via a birthday card! 

As Susan was still in hospital I had the task of getting the wedding venue booked, arrange for a licence/registrar – due to her illness the statutory notice requirement was waved.  Whilst I rushed from one task to another, Susan sat and drew up a guest list 60 for the ceremony with an addition 64 for the reception.  Within 3 days I had arranged the Registrar for a Civil (non-religious) ceremony thanks to Debbie Stein Assistant Registrar, West Lothian who would officiate at the ceremony.  A wedding/reception venue a photographer (Eddie Anderson).  The ceremony/reception was to be held at Howden Park Centre – I really lucked in on that choice as I soon found out when I met the event organiser Fiona Wilson. Once I had explained the situation she uttered those magic words – “Leave everything to us – just tell us what you need and then relax”.  All was ready when she came home  on 11th May.  We decided we would make the best of things and take one day at a time.  In fact that became our matra.  Susan planned a family get together at Runcorn to meet up with her extended family which would be special in so many ways.  She had recently been reconciled with her daughter and this was an extra special event.

Susan with big brother Al and Doreen

We had several outings arranged our Devon trip was cancelled but our Roses Rail Tour on 20th – 24th June went ahead. We stayed in Midland Hotel, Bradford ideal for our day trips; Settle to Carlisle (Crossing Ribblehead viaduct) and back, East Lancashire Railway and finally the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway. and returned in time for the big day.

The wedding was held on Susan’s birthday 26th June 2019.

26th June 2019  – Wedding of the Year  – Time 11:30 – Susan Wales and I were married my partner of 12 years was now my wife and I her husband.

A total of 124 guests were invited 60 of then for the ceremony (all that the room could hold) and the remaining 64 to join us at the reception.  To say we were overwhelmed would be an understatement.  All but 12 invited guests attend the other 12 had prior commitments but still managed to send congratulations.  Susan was deeply touched and I was gobsmacked.  I knew Susan had many contacts and interests but her network of contacts was extensive throughout the UK.

Our “Honeymoon” was a working one.  Susan’s involvement with Scottish Community Drama (formerly SCDA) had snared me  into taking stage photographs of the last 3 British Finals of the 1-Act Festival.  Susan was going to the latest one to be hosted by All England Theatre and held in Harrogate, I was honoured to be invited to take photos of the event.  Presentation of Awards.  We stayed with a very good Friend Annie Page who provided taxi service and hosted us around the area.  We even got to see the Ribblehead Viaduct from a more flattering view point.

Ribblehead Viaduct

We returned home on 9th July in time for more medical appointments.  On the 26th July Susan was admitted to St John’s Hospital, Howden, Livingston initially Ward 23 MAS and then Ward 25 where she remained until the 26th August when at my request and Susan’s wishes she was allowed home and Palliative care team took over her care at home.  We made two further outings with our good Friend Sid (The Intrepids) on 29th August Susan had a final visit to see her beloved mountain “Buachaille Etive Mòr”

Her final outing, again in the company of Sid and myself, was a trip to Arrochar on 7th September 2019 to see The Cobbler (The Cobbler is a mountain of 884 metres height located near the head of Loch Long in Scotland. Although only a Corbett, it is “one of the most impressive summits in the Southern Highlands”, and is also the most important site for rock climbing in the Southern Highlands. Wikipedia)

Then onto Glen Kinglas to visit a bridge built in 1745 to allow troop movements in the highlands and prevent an uprising -“Butter Bridge” next to the A83:

At 02:29 A.M on Sunday 15th September my wife passed away at home knowing she was loved by many especially me.  I stayed with her holding her hand as he breathed her last, the tears then (as now) streaming down my face. Partner for 12 years, wife for 11 weeks 3 days and my whole life from the day we met.  Her “ceremony of Life” on 25th September was as well attended as our wedding. She was cremated and her ashes will be spread at Glen Etive, Buachaille Etive Mòr and Butter Bridge in spring of 2020.

2019 was a year of changes not all good but certainly life effecting. What about the future?  At present I’m living in the now – the future is a far distant place for me – only time will tell.


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A Winter’s Month – January 2010

Nikon D300s

A New Year, with two new photographic toys Santa had very kind left at Christmas. A New Nikon D300s with a Sigma 150-500 Zoom.  It had become apparent that I needed a larger zoom than the 28/300 for some of my animal shots at zoos.  Unfortunately (if I recall correctly) there were not many third party lens for Pentax fittings.  I was contemplating buying a Sigma 150-500 for Canon but a hint was dropped to forget that.  Christmas revealed why.

January 2010 (at least in West Lothian) started off with a lot, and I mean a lot of snow, along with a big freeze.  Yet the sun did shine – it shone but not a lot of warmth.  To test my new outfit I took my normal walk to my place of work getting to know the camera and lens.  This took me from Craigshill to Almondvale and the (then) new Civic Centre where |I was employed in Legal Services, West Lothian Council. Susan, Sid and I headed off to Linlithgow – which shuts down over the festive season, and had a walk around Linlithgow Loch to feed the birds.  It is a nice walk round the loch (see WalkHighlands) and popular, even on the 1st of January.  Being a loch there are lots of waders as well as gulls.  Most popular are the Mute Swans and Ducks (Mallard, Tufted Ducks etc.)  Regretfully we had to wait until we got home to have a warm soup – as I said Linlithgow closes down at Festive Season.

Where else would one test out the combination of large Zoom lens  and new camera – Edinburgh Zoo sprung to mind.  In a previous blog I mentioned that we were once members of the Society but no longer.  However the Zoo was the ideal place to test the outfit and I captured (to my mind) some great shots of Tigers, Lions etc.  I forgot to mention that Sid had purchased a Nikon D300s and Sigma 150-500 from Jessops in Edinburgh.  I thought he would have twigged and brought it with him to the zoo.  Silly man forgot them, mind you that was the last time he did so. Nowadays he carries the D90 and D300s with a small zoom and the 150-500.

I did not realise it at the time, but the year that started off so well would soon become the year from hell as far as my personal life went.  My mother lost her battle with cancer and soon after my partner was fighting for her life against pneumonia.   In all 2010 was a year of change and led to a bigger change in 2011.

Video/Slide show “A Winter’s Month”


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Wandering with a Pentax K200D – 2009

In 2008 I had two cameras – A Pentax K200d to act as a Second body to my K10D it eventually became my main camera of choice.  It was rated as a beginners camera but had weatherproofing.  However, by 2009 I owned 6 DSLRs.  I had bought a Canon EOS 50D, EOS 500D, Nikon D90, Nikon D300s.  I was spreading my wings testing the myth about which is the best camera.  Whilst I still retain the Pentax K10D, Canon 50D and 500D I no longer have the Pentax K200 or Nikon cameras.  I had fun that year taking 13,900 images, learning to cope with RAW files and Lightroom – having given up Photoshop as far too complex for my simple needs. The breakdown per camera is:

Pentax K10D – 4021 images, Pentax K200D – 2800, Canon 50D – 1974, Canon 500D – 1915, Nikon D90 – 1508 and the Nikon D300s – 571, a total of  12965 pictures the remaining 931 taken with unknown cameras. As you can see I preferred using the Pentax K10D closely followed by the  K200D.  The Canons came second and the Nikon last.   I still have not solved the which is best dilema as I use Pentax, Canon and Nikon for different tasks.

Anyway I digress 2009 I took the K200D on my travels around the UK as it was lighter then the K10 and a lot lighter than the Canon/Nikon. My Partner (Susan) and our fellow Intrepid Sid had fun traveling around Scotland, Down to York and looking through the images brought back the adventures.  My highlights were – Photographing inside St Giles Cathedral (actually the High Kirk of Edinburgh), Catching the moment the 1 o’Clock gun was fired, our trip to Inchcolm Island in the River Forth and my night shot of the Forth Bridge (rail bridge) at night from North Queensferry Harbour, at the time the bridge was undergoing a lengthy restoration and paint job – started in 2002 and finished in 2011.

I’ll leave you to enjoy (or not as the case may be) a short video of my wanderings with the Pentax K200D


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Japanese Garden – Cowden

Isabella ‘Ella’ Christie of Cowden (1861 –1949)

Extracted and summarised from cowdengarden.com Image linked from  cowdengarden.com.  

1963
Teenagers broke into the garden and burnt the teahouses, bridges and knocked the lanterns and shrines into the water during a night of mayhem. They were witnessed fleeing. This act of vandalism destroyed the work of  Isabella ‘Ella’ Christie of Cowden (1861 –1949).   

She had created Shãh-Rak-Uen, ‘the place of pleasure and delight’ in two months with the help of Taki Handa. Between 1908 – 1925 Professor Suzuki, 18th Hereditary Head of the Soami School of Imperial Garden Design, came regularly to prune the many imported shrubs and trees. In 1925 Shinzaburo Matsuo, who had lost his family in an earth quake, came to Scotland and worked in the garden until he died in 1937; he is buried in Muckhart churchyard. 

2008
The garden was handed over to Miss Christie’s great, great niece (Robert’s daughter), Sara Stewart.

2010
Taki Handa’s granddaughter visited the garden.

2011
Two new bridges commissioned by Robert Stewart.

2012
The pond was dredged in order to clear the weeds and find
the missing pieces from the lanterns. Inclusion in the Historic Environment Scotland Inventory of Designed Landscapes.

2013
Professor Masao Fukuhara, from Osaka University of Arts, Japan, was appointed to restore the garden.

2014
Start of restoration.
Formation of the charity The Japanese Garden at Cowden Castle, Charity No: SC045060.

2018 On the 6th July 2018 the Garden was reopened to the public.   On 10th August 2018 Susan and I visited the garden after reading about it on Facebook.  It was a spur of the moment decision.  Getting there was not so easy, in fact it was to put it mildly “Bl**dy frustrating”.  We finally found the turn and headed up a steep one track, very few passing places, to what looked like the semi demolished entrance to a contractors site.  Following the route we came to a newly set up parking area. A short walk took us to some porta cabins – Visitor Centre (shop and cafe), Toilets and at rear an outside seating area for cafe.

On paying (a reasonable) entrance fee you are stickered with a badge and may  now freely roam the restored areas of the once proud gardens.   As I said I felt very frustrated and in a mood after taking nearly 2 hours to find the gardens.  However, being met with politeness and having consumed an excellent home baked cake and filled up with coffee I was somewhat mollified.  We crossed the road from the porta cabins and took a left to enter the Gate to the Garden.

Once again, as I experienced in the Japanese Friendship Garden at (Lauriston Castle), a feeling of tranquillity slowly settled on me.  The garden was living up to “the place of pleasure and delight”.  Much needs to be done to fully restore this lost gem and the team are working hard to achieve the aim of fully restoring Shãh-Rak-Uen .

 


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Canadian Adventure – Butchart Gardens

Without doubt our 21 day combined Canadian/Alaskan Adventure had its moments and its disasters. However, we would not have willing missed the experience.  Our final adventure fell on a day of national celebration “Canada Day”.  This was not the first time we had visited a tourist hot spot on such an occasion. We landed in Amsterdam in time for “Queen’s Day” in 2012 – or rather “Queen’s Night” the evening before the day.  Amsterdammers can certainly party and so can the Canadians.

We had book a coach trip for our final day to visit “Butchart Gardens” and Victoria. took the ferry to “Vancouver Island” from Vancouver (Tsawwassen) – Victoria – (Swartz Bay) an approximately 90 minute trip.  Once on the island we made our way to Tod Bay and Butchart Gardens.  Being a public holiday the gardens were extremely busy but we managed to make our way round and visit the centre-piece “Sunken Gardens”, “Rose Garden”, “Japanese Garden” and “Italian Garden”, plus other smaller garden areas. Time, as it usually does flew past as we meandered our way around the attractions.  All to soon it was time to make our way back to the coach and to Victoria and party time (no photos taken – too boisterous and busy)

 

Video of Butchart Gardens