Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from Inverness – the view across the Beauly Firth, Ben Wyvis, the Black Isle, and boats moored in Muirtown Basin taken this afternoon. It was chilly and grey, but at least it was dry and we were wrapped up warm, so we really enjoyed our brisk and bracing New Year’s Day walk 🙂

The Back of Woolies and Other Lost Locations

One of the weird things about moving back to a place where you grew up so once knew very well, but in the interim you have lived elsewhere for twenty years, is that past locations that are so clear in your head are now lost to the present world. The back of Woolies in Inverness is one such lost location.

The two-storey Woolworths store in Inverness had a great corner location with the front doors on the High Street, but with the ‘back’ door (actually at the side of the building) opening up onto Lombard Street, a short quiet pedestrians-only back street creating a quick and easy cut through to Union Street. Woolies was a favourite shop for so many bits and pieces, so always enjoyed a high footfall including capturing extra trade via plenty of casual through-traffic.

When I was growing up and catching up with friends on a Saturday afternoon ‘the back of Woolies’ was a regular central meeting place. In those days, before the advent of purpose built shopping malls to pull the bulk of people away from the middle of the town to congregate in cavernous indoor off-centres elsewhere, the buzzing High Street with its jumble of large and small retailers all jostling for prime position was the pinnacle of our everyday shopping universe.

Sadly, Woolworths as a company died a death many years ago, and the retail company that now inhabits the ground floor only of the site has closed off the back doors entirely, losing the fluidity and flow of customers in the current configuration. The street, of course, remains intact, but inside my head Lombard Street will always be called ‘the back of Woolies’, even though the Woolies store referred to no longer exists exept in my memory.

Other lost locations in my memory include the Record Rendezvous on Church Street, one of only two dedicated vinyl record shops in Inverness. (Incidentally, the other record shop was on the Market Brae Steps at the other end of the High Street and was actually called ‘The Other Record Shop’, known affectionately as TORS.) However I see that the aptly named Rendezvous Cafe now sits happily on exactly the same footprint as the old Record Rendezvous, and the continuity of the name makes me smile every time I walk past it.

And in the same vein only a few yards away along the street from the Rendezvous Cafe there is also now a pub/ cafe bar called ‘The Auctioneers’ on the site of what was in my day actually a proper old fashioned auction house selling household furniture and similar items – it’s so nice to see a nod to the old businesses of the past in the naming of the new.

Alternatively, places where the name has changed but the business is the same still catch me off guard – the Victorian hotel built in to the fabric of the train station may now be branded as the Royal Highland, but it’ll always be the Station Hotel to me. And in my head the more modern Mercure Hotel overlooking the River Ness is still the Caledonian Hotel, known to all and sundry of my generation as the ‘Caley’, although its probably been a good decade or so at least years since the name changed 🙂

Taking the Train North from Inverness

Although the opening of the Kessock Bridge in 1982 speedily carries the main A9 trunk road north across the water with no discernible diversion to its route, the main rail line north still necessarily snakes sideways west from Inverness along the southern edge of the Beauly Firth until it reaches Dingwall, where it then splits in two with one scenic line continuing west to Kyle of Lochalsh and the other heading north to Thurso and Wick.

On its way out of Inverness, the railway line crosses the northern end of the Caledonian Canal at Clachnaharry, where its single track is carried across the water by a narrow swing bridge with a pedestrian level crossing at either end of the bridge. Approaching trains sound their horn before reducing speed and creeping slowly across the bridge, making a perfect photographic opportunity for those pedestrians waiting to cross the line to access the continuing path to the sea lock on the other side of the railway line.

Sunday Stroll: Along the Canal

It’s been a while since I’ve been for a Sunday stroll along the Caledonian canal from Muirtown Locks to Clachnaharry Sea Lock, and although the rain threatened a few times I had no more than a few spots here and there to contend with. But oh, it was bitterly cold today, especially with the bracing sea breeze that’s never far away.

Whenever the sun came out (decidedly intermittently) I snapped whatever I could landscape-wise, and whenever the dark rain clouds dampened the light I concentrated on close-ups of whatever I could find around me. I was out for an hour or so and came home with frozen fingers, pink cheeks, windswept hair, and a big happy smile 🙂

Weekly Smile

Same View, Different days

I’ve been fretting a bit lately about the lack of variety in my blog posts, in particular my recent photographs, due to the fact that Covid restrictions mean my life currently revolves around little more than going to work, shopping for food, and staying at home.

I’m lucky in that my daily 20 minute walk to work takes me across the River Ness via the Greig Street footbridge, and every now and again I’ll be on the bridge and think – Oooh, that might make a good image! – so I take out my phone and click a quick pic.

Looking back through my phone last night I found these four images taken on different days at different times and in different weather over the last few weeks, but showing pretty much the same view left to right of Bank Street, Inverness Castle and Ness Bridge.

So I thought – That’s maybe something new to do photographically, deliberately take the same photograph of something or somewhere multiple times but seeing how different time, light, weather, angle and/ or any other variable creates a very different feel and end result to each image?

Hmmm… I might just try experimenting with that over the next few weeks, and see what turns up! 🙂

Inverness in Watercolour

While the artistic muse is still with me, today I decided to try to paint something a bit more complicated than a single thistle or a couple of plums, like a landscape, so chose to go with a favourite view of Inverness looking along the river.

Again I used a photograph as inspiration, although to say I may have simplified the scene slightly is an understatement! And again, I started out with a minimal outline in pencil, filled in the base colours with an overall wash, then once that had dried sufficiently I added more depth and definition bit by bit, then in the final layer I tweaked it with a few more detailed strokes here and there.

It’s not finished exactly, but I think I’ve taken it as far as the fun will let me for today so will leave it at that. Overall I’m happy enough with it as a learning experience, and for me the most important thing is that I actually had a go – after all it’s not the winning but the taking part that counts! 🙂

Ness Island Walk

This afternoon my husband and I went for a walk along the Ness Islands – little low islands of trees and winding paths sitting slap bang in the middle of the River Ness, linked together by a series of small ironwork footbridges stretching across from bank to bank. Another dull grey day weather-wise, but we had a lovely enjoyable walk anyway 🙂