Tuesday 26 July 2016

Scotland by Rail - Kirkcaldy Galleries

Kirkcaldy Galleries behind wildflower planting

Exit Kirkcaldy station on the Edinburgh-bound side and the big old building immediately in front of you is Kirkcaldy Galleries, home of museum, gallery, library, cafe.


The museum tells of Kirkcaldy's history - mining, lino, pottery...


The gallery's permanent collection is only four or five rooms but has really top quality works. One room is devoted to the Scottish Colourists, including beautiful small Peploe studies of town and of sea, and a number of his Iona beaches. Another room is for Fife artworks, names I didn't know but am pleased to have discovered. The last room is McTaggart, who I've never managed to never get on with, but there was one of his - The Wave - that had none of his cherubic figures and really did grab me.

The collection is online here - www.artuk.org - many more paintings than are on display in the gallery at any more time. I've been browsing it just now and there it's seriously exciting. One of my favourite paintings for example, Frances Walker's Leaving St Kilda, and companion piece Passing St Kilda. I first saw these two at the opening of her Place Observed in Solitude exhibition in Aberdeen Art Gallery in 2010. One of my favourite exhibitions of all I've seen. Read about it here - www.northings.com.

Scottish Colourists room. plus mum's leg

Temporary exhibitions also take place here, lots of different things. Currently it's a celebration of The Singing Kettle... My brother liked them but I always preferred Mr Boom, Singing Kettle were just so loud.


The cafe does coffee and scones, date slices and very nice carrot cake.


Oh, and the men's toilet downstairs is all nice and aged with a big wooden seat and a pull flush, as in my mum's childhood home. The word 'Modern' is stamped inside the bowl...


Kirkcaldy Galleries is set within Kirkcaldy War Memorial Gardens, a small area of parkland which at the time of this visit was brought absolutely alive by a wildflower bed, primarily poppies. Hundreds of hoverflies and bumblebees and other pollinators were buzzing in the come-and-go sunshine.

Incidentally, why not do your own bit by planting an area of wildflowers in your garden, or even just leaving a patch of lawn to grow long. Easy and quick. Even half a square metre helps to Give Nature a Home - www.rspb.org.uk


How to get there

Trains to Kirkcaldy take 35-45 minutes from Edinburgh Waverley, usually running every half hour during the day, or hourly on Sundays. The views are pretty great.

from the train, between Kirkcaldy and Kinghorn

from the train, Kinghorn

From Dundee it takes about the same length of time but trains are less frequent.

Timetables are all here.

(Recently there have been lots of cancellations on the Fife line so do check the ScotRail app or website before leaving.)

Many thanks to ScotRail for their support of my Scotland by Rail work.

Tuesday 19 July 2016

New York by ocean liner - Central Park raccoons

Central Park raccoon, photo by Jennifer Alexander

We've just got back from three-and-a-half weeks on honeymoon - to New York and back by ocean liner. I stayed offline the whole time, and loved it.

Here's a first blog post, then to my emails...

Central Park night(wild)life

Raccoons in Central Park. This was one particular family that we got to know over several nights. Seriously cute. Extremely tame. Walk around at dusk and it's hard not to see any, especially near litter bins. Rats too - nice to see how many people watched with curiosity rather than fear or fury. And fireflies, hundreds of them, as darkness approaches gently rising and falling over the grasses, soft led bulbs glowing yellow. On... and fade, on... and fade.

Central Park

Central Park is a two-and-a-half mile long, half-a-mile wide, 843 acre greenspace in the middle of Manhattan Island. A haven for wildlife and for people. I could have spent the whole time just there.

A 2008 BioBlitz of Central Park identified and recorded 836 different species in 24 hours, including, "393 plants, 102 invertebrates, seventy-eight moths, ten spiders, nine dragonflies, seven mammals, three turtles, two frogs, and two tardigrades (a microscopic life form). They also identified 46 bird species (and) missed out on hundreds more because of the season."
- https://macaulay.cuny.edu/eportfolios/themanhattanproject/field-lab-8/biodiversity-in-central-park-virginia-milieris/

The total number of bird species ever recorded in Central Park is over 280 - www.nycaudubon.org/manhattan-birding/central-park

Central Park Conservancy - www.centralparknyc.org

Ocean Liner

We crossed the Atlantic on Cunard's Queen Mary 2 - www.cunard.co.uk/cruise-ships/queen-mary-2

Lots of info here - www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RMS_Queen_Mary_2

2012 Crossing

We made the same journey, one-way, in 2012. Blog post here

on Queen Mary 2, looking to the stern