Scotland Adventure: Day Six: Part 1


After running around the Scottish highlands and lowlands for five days we ended up in Edinburgh at the Adria house. A quaint Georgian town home now run as a bed and breakfast (B&B), this is a wonderful location to begin our exploration of Scotland’s capital.

Adria House on the Royal Terrace

After another great breakfast (like I said I loved the food in Scotland), we set off to explore Edinburgh on foot. We made a quick list of some things we would like to get while we were out to bring back to Canada. Most of it was of course souvenirs, yet I would be looking for something more traditional of a local flavour. I had my heart set on purchasing a kilt to bring back with me. Not a simple kilt such as something you would wear for a costume, more along the lines of something I could wear to a party, formal gathering/wedding or simply on a special occasion. My friends knew about this and I got some well-needed advice and hints on purchasing one.
However while I was looking for one I would be taking in a lot of the local atmosphere of this old yet beautiful city. Our first stop or journey would be to walk and discover the wondrous things a street called the Royal Mile had to offer.
The Royal mile, as the name suggests, is about a mile long starting from Edinburgh Castle at the top of the hill, to the Holyrood Palace at the base, near the Scottish parliament buildings. This main street in the old town where many businesses cross is the busiest tourist street in the old town. Along this street you can see many tourist shops and attractions as well as many cultural centres such as The Real Mary Kings Close, St. Giles’ Cathedral and or course Edinburgh Castle; all of which we visited.
But first, we explored the streets looking and taking in the atmosphere that is Edinburgh. We walked up and down the side streets and we came upon the café where J.K. Rowling sat in to written her famous Harry Potter books. We even walked by George Heriot’s school, the school that she modeled Hogwarts after. From this location we were able to get a spectacular view of Edinburgh Castle. As we were walking to the castle the view reminded me of another castle I had read about long ago from another famous author, JRR Tolkien in the Lord of the Rings, Edoras. Edoras is the city capital of Rohan. Looking up at the castle I imagined that I was on a quest to Edoras to see King Théoden. You can call me a nerd but views such as this, stirs my mind to places created and destroyed within my imagination. Yet imagine, hundreds if not thousands of people have walked these streets seeing the same views, the same places.   However many simply walk past oblivious of the moment in time they are experiencing. This moment will never come again, we should savour it to its fullest and this image will be one I will treasure for a long time.
We will be exploring castle but first we explored another building seemingly stopped in a moment in time, St. Giles’ Cathedral. Also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh, St. Giles’s Cathedral is the main place of worship for the Church of Scotland. Dedicated to St. Giles, the patron saint of Edinburgh; he was a very popular saint in the Middle Ages, probably because he was also the patron saint of cripples and lepers. Today’s church dates back to the late 14th century even though it went through extensive restoration in the 19th century. Today it is seen as the “mother Church of Presbyterianism”.
We made our way into the cathedral and it is a lovely example of architecture of the day. I’ve seen older churches but this church had some wonderful stain glass windows I have only seen in pictures. I found their artistry enchanting and I spent a great deal of time taking in the little details in them. I particularly enjoyed the stain glass windows near the altar that depicted the main life moments of Jesus. The most memorable were the miracle at Cana, the expulsion of the money changers, the crucifixion, the resurrection and the assentation. I know all these stories from reading them in the bible and of course hearing about them at church. Yet no matter where I go I love to see other people’s renderings or interpretation of these events. I love to see which parts of the stories the artist chooses to add to the artwork.

 

Art is everywhere no matter where you look.

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Scotland Adventure: Day Five: An Artistic Evening


 

Once in Edinburgh, we checked into a wonderful bed and breakfast and decided to relax a bit after a busy day because the evening would be filled with more exciting things. We would be meeting up with a few friends, of my traveling companions, from Scotland for dinner. However we took the opportunity to take in two sights on our way to dinner.

We would be having dinner with ever one in Falkirk, about a 45-minute drive from Edinburgh. Yet two incredible artist and engineering landmarks are within a few kilometres of the restaurant. The first landmark we went to was the Falkirk Wheel. A marvellous feat of engineering that is described as a 21-century lock system that replaces the previous 11 locks that connected two canals. It is a rotating boat lift that connects the Forth and Clyde Canal to the Union Canal which opened in 2002. The wheel raises and lowers boats about 24 metres to and from the aqueduct. To explain how it works would take too long, therefore I have added two YouTube videos that explains the mechanisms and principles of the Falkirk Wheel.

 

I have seen this marvel on a number of videos but seeing it was rather impressive. From this artistic and engineering wonder, we went to another beautiful and impressive artistic and engineering marvel, the Kelpies. The Kelpies are 30-metre high structures of horse heads. They are next to the Forth and Clyde Canal and River Carron. They were designed by sculptor Andy Scott and completed in 2013. The Kelpies were meant to be a monument to the horse powered heritage of Scotland. However there is a more mystical background to what are the Kelpies.
Kelpies or water kelpie refers to a shape-shifting water spirit that would inhabit the lochs and pools of Scotland. They are usually described as appearing as a horse but is able to appear in human form. Some of the myths say that they retain their hooves in human form, sometimes associating them with Satan. Most every loch in Scotland has a kelpie story but the most famous is Loch Ness. The origins are believed to be that these where wicked water horses used to warn children not to go near water or for women to beware of handsome strangers.
The Kelpie is usually described as a powerful and beautiful black horse that lives in the deep waters of rivers and streams in Scotland, preying on humans it encounters.   One folk tale from Barra (an island in the North west of Scotland) goes like this …

 

‘A lonely kelpie that transforms itself into a handsome young man to woo a pretty young girl it was determined to take for its wife. But the girl recognizes the young man as a kelpie and removes his silver necklace (his bridle) while he sleeps. The kelpie immediately reverts to its equine form, and the girl takes it home to her father’s farm, where it is put to work for a year. At the end of that time the girl rides the kelpie to consult a wise man, who tells her to return the silver necklace. The wise man then asks the kelpie, once again transformed into the handsome young man the girl had first met, whether if given the choice it would choose to be a kelpie or a mortal. The kelpie in turn asks the girl whether, if he were a man, she would agree to be his wife. She confirms that she would, after which the kelpie chooses to become a mortal man, and the pair are married.’ McNeil (2001), pp. 68-72.

 

 

When I first saw these structures we were driving along the highway and out of nowhere they appear beside the road larger than life. We were able to get there after dark to get some amazing photos of the Kelpies. They truly are a sight to behold in person. These 30-metre high horse heads rising out of the ground, illuminated in different colours were simply spectacular to behold.
We spent quite a long time taking photos and looking at them from every angle, yet we had to leave the Kelpies to meet up with our dinner companions. For even though we saw some amazing sculptures, we did not want to miss out on the best part Scotland had to offer; the amazing people who make this country the marvel that it truly is.  

 

Enjoying a wonderful dinner with my new Scottish friends.

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Scotland Adventure: Day Five, A Busy Morning And Afternoon


Day five was a rather busy, filled with such amazing things that I couldn’t place it all in one post. Therefore, this post will have our adventures of the morning and afternoon, however I will post the evening activities very soon.

If there is one thing I will always remember about going to Scotland, it will have to be the amazing food. The most memorable were the breakfasts. This morning was no different. We walked into the Black Bull Inn restaurant for a Scottish breakfast and once it arrived I was not disappointed. The usual fried egg, Scottish bacon, two different sausages, a tattie scone/potato scone, a fried tomato and black pudding. However, this morning I was treated to a patty of Haggis with everything else. This was the first time I had Haggis and I have to say I liked it. I shouldn’t be too surprised, I love black pudding, which most people don’t and Haggis is not that from it.

The breakfast was rather large, yet we needed the extra energy because we were going to the Grey Mare’s Tail Natural Reserve. A rather steep hike up a small mountain, along side Grey Mare’s Tail Waterfall to a wonderful view of Loch Skeen. However, our drive to the reserve was met with sheets of rain and once there the rain was replaced with ice pellets and heavier rain. For safety reasons we all agreed not to do the climb, yet it did give us a wonderful opportunity to return to Moffat. We were not intending to go back to Moffat because we would make our way to Edinburgh after the hike. We wanted to visit some stores in town but by the time we were ready to leave everything was still closed. One major destination on our return into town was the Moffat Toffee Shop.

Rules are made to be eaten. The law is only a suggestion.

Sweets upon sweets, a great place to indulge your sweet tooth. I am not much of a sweet person but my traveling companions wanted to visit and bring something back to our colleagues. They make their own toffee on site and I took the opportunity to purchase some for my family back in Canada.
After treating ourselves, we made or way to Edinburgh, however we would be making a side trip to a very historical site, Rosslyn Chapel.   Situated on a small hill above Roslin Glen; Rosslyn Chapel was founded in the mid-15th century by William Sinclair, 1st Earl of Caithness as a Catholic collegiate church. The original was a large college to celebrate the Divine Office and to celebrate masses to the faithful and of course the Sinclair family. After the Scottish Reformation of 1560, Roman Catholic worship came to an end, even though the Sinclair family continued to be catholic until the early 18th century. It was closed to the public until 1861 when the Scottish Episcopal Church reopened it as a place of worship as a member of the Anglican Communion.  
In resent years, the chapel has been at the centre of much speculation and controversy with theories of connections to the Knights Templar, the Holy Grail and the Freemasons. You may remember it from the book by Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code and the subsequent movie. Even though there is no basis for these theories in historical records and historians refute this claim, may people still want to believe in theses theories.
At first glance the chapel is not that impressive, yet once you get closer and see the artistry of the stone work, you begin to appreciate the time, effort and care that went into this remarkable landmark. The best examples are the pillars, especially the Master and Apprentice Pillars. The legend goes that the master mason received a model of a pillar of such eloquence and design that he did not want to proceed until he say the original for himself. The master journeyed to the original believing that his younger apprentice could not complete the task of carving the pillar as well as the master. However, in his absence the apprentice received a vision/dream that he finished the work therefore he began working on the pillar. On his return, the master mason seeing the competed pillar fell into a fit of jealous anger. He grabbed a mallet and struck the apprentice on the head, killing him. As a continued punishment, the master mason’s face was carved in the opposite corner so that he would forever look upon the apprentice’s pillar.
The pillar carvings were only a few of the thousands in the chapel that brought a certain majesty to the place. Knowing a bit of the history and talking to a wonderful tour guide, she help me appreciate it more. One such note is a referral to Ley Lines in Rosslyn Chapel. A phrase created in the 1920s by Alfred Watkins, which referred to the geographic and historical locations of ancient megaliths and monuments. The one passing through the chapel is the telluric lines traversing Scotland named the “Rose Line”. Popularized in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, the guide was able to show us were the line intersects with others in the chapel. I stood on it at the centre of the chapel and if you look up, you can see the main keystone, in the arched ceiling, was directly above it. For something built some 500 years ago and to have such a level of accuracy and connection to the natural world, this knowledge truly made me stop and think.

Our stay was quite memorable and in some ways I did not want to leave, however our adventures for the day was only beginning.

 

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Comic Strips: Anti-Virus Software


This month’s instalment of, The Craziest Things has less to do with the flu shot and more to do with talking in a language that the students’ understand. Whenever I am in a classroom and doing a lesson, the biggest issue I have as a teacher is if the students understand the concept that is being put forward to them. Whether it be math, language or even art; if the student does not understand, it is up to me to help them.

On many occasions I will present something and ask if they understand and I get blank looks, so I then ask how would you explain it to me? Or I would even use something totally different like sports or draw it out to try to help their understanding. That is where this cute like comic came out of. Many of the students where talking about the flu shot some time ago and I know that many take it because their parents told them to. However, I wondered how they relate the flu shot in a modern way and thought of the computer analogy.

I hope you enjoy the latest instalment of, The Craziest Things; Anti-Virus Software.

Comic Strips: Tap, Tap, Tap.


 

I was unable to post last months instalment of, The Craziest Things do to my busy schedule outside the country, therefore I will post last months this week and April’s next week.

In this comic I explore the growing trend of this generation of students using more and more technology instead of traditional media, such as EBooks instead of real books. Mind you many of the students today use books but surprisingly I have actually seen this with the some students. I would imagine it would be the same for me if the past generation gave me a slide rule to calculate math problems, where I am use to a calculator.

This is a funny take on technology and how much it has progressed and entered every aspect of our lives. But in some ways it is a reflection on who we are. If we only look forward and forget where we came from what does mean for us as a society. I remember a quote …

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. George Santayana

With this in mind, I hope you enjoy the latest instalment of, The Craziest Things; Tap, Tap, Tap.

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Art Inspiration: Imagine The Impossible: Final Portrait 02


 

‘The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.’ Aristotle

‘Imagination is more important than knowledge.’ Albert Einstein

 

Inspiration and Imagination, something every artist needs and is elusive as an island of tranquility in a sea of chaos. Many people have told me that I inspire the children and people in general with what I do. Whether creating art, playing baseball or trying to improve my life, people say that I have inspired others to try new things and look inside themselves. I have always found this interesting because I get my inspiration from these very people.

A prime example is when I drew the staff at my school as cartoon characters or caricatures for their Christmas Cards. It took quit a while to create the caricatures but once the staff received them they loved the cards and caricatures. In the next few weeks I will be posting a few of the characters from the cards because these people inspired me to create these characters. Hopefully they can spur imagination and inspire others.

 

Final Portrait 02

In the Final Portrait 01, I gathered all the caricatures for a staff portrait. Those were people whom I worked with in the after school program. In this second portrait I collected all the staff I worked with during school hours. I created two of the caricatures around Christmas at the same time as I created the other caricatures, yet the three others standing closest to my caricature; I decided to create as part of their graduation celebration. They were the teachers of the graduating class and I thought a nice gesture to create a Steampunk caricature to commemorate the occasion.

Instead of creating a new background I thought it was fitting to use the original I used for the other portrait. I found a great scene of some buildings along the River Seine and I drew a metal platform with stairs that you would use to get onto a ship. I have always loved ships and I was thinking that this group might be going a voyage. I am the Captain after all and what is a captain without a ship to command. Yet I did not want to use any ship, no. In the Steampunk style I imagined us waiting to board a dirigible. An airship with a massive balloon carrying an old sailing Man-o-War, like the HMS Victory. If you look in the upper left hand corner of the image you can see one flying into view.

I added the caricatures standing on the platform waiting for the ship to arrive to start our adventure. I placed my caricature at the front of the group to show that I was leading the way to board my ship. I added the soft-feathered frame and then I placed my personal logo ‘Paul G” to the lower right, but I was not sure what to call the portrait. I then thought of the graduation and came up with another name, yet with this second creation I went back to the original portrait’s name.   I wanted the portrait to inspire imagination, to believe that the impossible is possible. Therefore the title came out to be “Imagine the Impossible.”

With these people I did give them a portrait but not with all six of us in it. There were two different portraits but I decided to combine these caricatures into one portrait. They all loved their final portraits and I hope will enjoy this Final Portrait 02 of “Imagine the Impossible”.

Imagine the Impossible – Final Portrait 02

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Art Inspiration: Imagine The Impossible: Final Portrait 01


‘The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.’ Aristotle

‘Imagination is more important than knowledge.’ Albert Einstein

 

Inspiration and Imagination, something every artist needs and is elusive as an island of tranquility in a sea of chaos. Many people have told me that I inspire the children and people in general with what I do. Whether creating art, playing baseball or trying to improve my life, people say that I have inspired others to try new things and look inside themselves. I have always found this interesting because I get my inspiration from these very people.

A prime example is when I drew the staff at my school as cartoon characters or caricatures for their Christmas Cards. It took quit a while to create the caricatures but once the staff received them they loved the cards and caricatures. In the next few weeks I will be posting a few of the characters from the cards because these people inspired me to create these characters. Hopefully they can spur imagination and inspire others.

Final Portrait 01

In the final image I gathered all the caricatures for a staff portrait. This is set in a   Steampunk style therefore I needed a Victorian Era background. I went through a few ideas, a garden scene, a drawing-room similar to something from Pride and Prejudice, a steamship (I do like ships) or a busy street in London. I thought long and hard and I wanted something that would inspire some imagination something fanciful but still had a sense of reality. Then I thought of the time I dressed up as a musketeer and the scene came to me.

Why should my setting be in London, why not in Paris? Therefore I found a great scene of some buildings along the River Seine and I drew a metal platform with stairs that you would use to get onto a ship. I have always loved ships and I was thinking that this group might be going a voyage. I am the Captain after all and what is a captain without a ship to command. Yet I did not want to use any ship, no. In the Steampunk style I imagined us waiting to board a dirigible. An airship with a massive balloon carrying an old sailing Man-o-War, like the HMS Victory. If you look in the upper left hand corner of the image you can see on flying into view.

I added the caricatures standing on the platform waiting for the ship to arrive to start our adventure. I am on the top platform with my falcon waiting for my ship. I added the soft-feathered frame and then I added my personal logo ‘Paul G” to the lower right but I was not sure what to call the portrait. Then the idea came to me. I wanted the portrait to inspire imagination, to believe that the impossible is possible. Therefore the title came out to be “Imagine the Impossible.”

This is the first group of educators I made the portrait and caricatures for. We went out for Christmas dinner and after I gave the staff their individual cards with their caricatures, I presented this final portrait to them all. They were all signed and dated and to say that they liked it would be an understatement. They all loved the final portrait and I hope you too will enjoy the final portrait of Imagine the Impossible”.

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